Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
Store Icon

Uses of Petroleum

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
Total views: 353.1k
Views today: 6.53k
hightlight icon
highlight icon
highlight icon
share icon
copy icon

Petroleum Products and Its Uses: A Comprehensive Study

Petroleum i.e. crude oil is a naturally occurring liquid that is refined to prepare products like gasoline i.e. petrol, diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil, lubricating oil, wax, asphalt, and many other useful products. The word petroleum originates from Latin, where “petra” means rock and “oleum” means oil. Petroleum also includes natural gas which has similar chemistry to crude oil. Transportation and power generation are the two major uses of petroleum. Chemicals obtained from the refining of crude oil and the processing of natural gas are used by the petrochemical industry to produce petrochemicals like synthetic rubber, fertilizers, plastic, latex paints, drugs, synthetic fibres, and explosives.


Properties of Petroleum

Crude oil can appear very fluid, volatile liquids and also viscous, semisolid materials. It is usually black or black with a greenish tinge in colour. Sometimes it can be reddish, greenish-yellow, light yellow, or transparent. Natural gas is a colourless and odourless gas.

Petroleum majorly contains alkanes and also cyclohexanes, aromatic hydrocarbons and more complex hydrocarbons such as asphaltenes. Carbon and hydrogen are the two basic constituent elements of petroleum. Crude oils vary greatly in their chemical composition due to the combination of the above elements in various complex ways. 

The properties of petroleum, such as viscosity, density, boiling point, and colour may vary extensively.  Heavier fractions like asphaltene contain greater metal concentration than saturated and aromatic fractions. Nitrogen and sulfur can be present in traces in light petroleum with an increase for heavier or extra-heavy crude oil.


The Basic Composition of Petroleum


84 to 87%


11 to 14%


0.06 to 2%


0.1 to 2%


0.1 to 0.2%


0 to 0.14%


What is Petroleum Used For?

Transportation: To date, petroleum is the basic source of energy used in transportation. Petroleum accounts for two-thirds of the total transportation fuel globally. Gasoline/petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), jet fuel, and marine fuel are the major transportation fuels obtained from petroleum. Cars, motorcycles, light trucks, buses, trains, boats and ships use gasoline or diesel. Jet aeroplanes and some types of helicopters often use kerosene.

Power Generation: A thermal power plant uses petroleum for electricity generation. Although coal is the major source of electricity generation, petroleum also accounts for significant power generation that eventually results in serious environmental pollution. 

Apart from these two uses of petroleum, the fuel has other industrial applications too. 

These are:

Lubricants: Almost all industries use lubricants for the proper functioning of machinery. Lubricants reduce friction in vehicles and industrial machines. However, they are even used in cooking, bio-applications on humans, ultrasound and medical examinations. 

Pharmaceuticals: Certain by-products like mineral oil and petrolatum are used in the manufacture of topical medicines. The complex organic molecules used in pharmaceuticals are linked to simple organic molecules of petroleum byproducts.

Agriculture: Ammonia, which is a source of nitrogen in agricultural fertilizers, is manufactured from petroleum using Haber’s process. Moreover, a lot of pesticides are produced from petroleum. Machinery for ploughing etc also works on petroleum. 

Chemical Industry: The raw materials of many chemical companies are by-products of a petroleum refinery. Chemical fertilizers, synthetic fibres, insecticides, synthetic rubber, nylon, plastics, pesticides, perfumes, dyes, paints etc are the significant products produced using the major by-products like naphtha, grease, petroleum jelly, wax, butadiene etc.

Domestic uses: Household products like detergents, vaseline, wax etc are by-products derived from petroleum. Kerosene is used in many countries for cooking, lighting and other domestic purposes.  


Different Types of Petroleum Products and their Applications

Let us look into the examples of petroleum products obtained from petroleum:-


  • Gasoline

  • Kerosene

  • Liquefied natural gas

  • Liquefied petroleum gas

  • Butane

  • Diesel fuel

  • Fuel oil

  • Propane

Other Products

  • Paraffin wax

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Petroleum wax

  • Microcrystalline wax

  • Napalm

  • Naphtha

  • Naphthalene

  • Refined asphalt

  • Refined bitumen

Fractional distillation column of Crude oil


Some Petroleum Products and their Uses


Gaseous products obtained from the refinery are hydrogen, fuel gas,ethane, propane, and butane. Propane and butane are collectively known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is a portable and suitable fuel for light industrial use and domestic heating (cooking).


Gasoline uses include application in internal combustion engines, commonly used in private and commercial vehicles.


It is commonly used in trucks, buses and public transport, locomotives, farm and heavy equipment. Diesel has greater energy and power density than gasoline.


It is used extensively globally in cooking and space heating. It is also the basic fuel for modern jet engines. 

Fuel oil

It can be used as a power source of lamps, heaters, stoves, engines and lanterns typically at home in furnaces and boilers. The machinery of farming, mining or quarrying machinery or even bunkering ships uses fuel oil.

Other Petroleum Products

  • Naphtha is used to manufacture solvents for paints, cosmetics, commercial dry cleaning etc. Paper manufacture and foodstuffs use wax.

  • Asphaltic bitumen is employed in the construction of roads and airfields and the manufacture of roofing felts, waterproof papers, pipeline coatings, and electrical insulation. 

  • Decomposing liquid hydrocarbon fractions make carbon black which is compounded with rubber in tire manufacture and used in printing inks and lacquers.


Did you Know?

One of the ancient civilizations, the Sumerians, discovered petroleum on the banks of the River Euphrates and used it for various purposes like road-building and waterproofing.

Petroleum is a naturally occurring, dark brown to a black mixture of hydrocarbons that can be refined into various types of fuels. The word petroleum comes from Latin and means "rock oil." Petroleum has many uses including providing light in kerosene lamps, lubricating machinery with motor oil, powering cars with gasoline or diesel fuel, and heating homes with home heating oil. It is also used as the raw material for many chemical products such as solvents (e.g., paint thinner), brake fluid, asphalt pavement sealer, and roofing tar among others.

Petroleum is an Important Resource and Applied in Various Fields

  • It is a valuable source of energy

  • Petroleum is used to produce about 40% of the world's electricity.

  • It is also used as fuel for transportation. About two-thirds of the oil that is consumed in the United States is used for transportation, including cars, trucks, trains, planes, and boats.

  • Petroleum can be turned into many different types of products such as plastics, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals.

  • It can also be burned to create heat or steam which can be used to generate electricity.

  • Petroleum is also used to make many types of products including paints, dyes, detergents, and cosmetics.

  • Petroleum is nonrenewable, which means that it cannot be replaced once it is used.

  • Petroleum is a fossil fuel, which means that it comes from the remains of plants and animals that lived long ago.

Here are Some Tips to Study Petroleum

  • Know the Composition- There are many kinds of petroleum such as crude oil, natural gas, and bitumen. It is important to know the different types and their compositions. So, it would be easy for you to study and research petroleum.

  • Try and Understand the Steps Involved- When studying petroleum, try and understand the steps involved. This way, it will be easier for you to memorize facts about this topic.

  • Know how it is Formed- You should also try to know how petroleum is formed. This way, you would be able to study this topic easily and in an organized manner.

  • Create your own Study Guide- Petroleum can be a difficult topic to study. However, if you create your own study guide, it will make the process much easier for you. This guide should include all of the important topics that you need to know about petroleum.

  • Start Learning each and every Aspect- When studying petroleum, you should start learning every little aspect of this topic. This way, it would be easier for you to study and memorize everything about this subject.

FAQs on Uses of Petroleum

1. Mention the Chemical Composition of Crude Oil and Natural Gas.

Crude oil comprises a mixture of thousands of hydrocarbon molecules with 5 to more than 60 carbons. The molecules vary from straight chains, circles, to chains with side chains. Shorter hydrocarbon molecules have low viscosity and vice versa.

At surface temperature and pressure, natural gas has a composition of hydrocarbon with one, two, three, and four carbons i.e., (CH4) methane, (C2H6) ethane, (C3H8) propane and (C4H10) butane. Typically natural gas is composed of 88% methane, 5% ethane, 2 percent propane, and 1% butane.

2. What are the Common Five Uses of Oil?

In modern civilization, oil plays a significant role in major sectors like:

Fuel: Gasoline is the major energy for transportation, agriculture and industries. Kerosene is important for domestic purposes.

Plastics: Crude oil is refined and subjected to high heat in combination with another treated material to create the polymers.

Clothing: Significant fibres like spandex, polyester, nylon and vegan leather are petroleum-based.

Toiletries: Beauty products and toiletries like soap, lotion, toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, and deodorant use propylene glycol and crylates from petroleum.

Gum: Any product that is gum-based includes petroleum and waxes.

3. Is it still possible to find "new oil"?

Yes! Oil companies continue exploring new sources of oil because they know that someday their existing resources will run out.

4. Will there ever be another energy crisis?

No one can predict the future so it's impossible to say with certainty whether or not we'll experience another energy crisis but experts do not expect this in the foreseeable future. They believe current reserves should last at least 50 years which means sufficient time to develop alternative fuel sources like wind power and solar cells before running into trouble again.

5. How much time does it take to complete the topic to prepare for exams?

The answer to this question depends on your learning style and how well you can retain the information. If you are able to study one section at a time, it will take longer than studying all of the material in one sitting.

6. How do I know if I'm ready for my exams?

It's important that students take practice exams to determine if they are ready for their Petroleum final. If you're having trouble with a particular topic, go over the related material again and try some practice problems. You should also make sure that you know how to use all of the formulas required for the exam. Finally, it's important to have a good understanding of the concepts involved in the course. If you can answer most of the practice questions correctly and feel confident about your ability to complete the exam, then you're probably ready. However, if there are still some areas that need more work, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for help.

7. What should I do if I run out of time during my exams?

Many students experience difficulty finishing their exams on time. If this happens to you, don't panic! Just make sure that you've answered all of the questions and try to guess what the answers might be for any remaining ones. You can also use the process of elimination to narrow down your choices. In many cases, schools will allow students a few minutes extra after they have completed their exams to correct any mistakes.

8. What are some of the most common questions asked about petroleum?

There are many types of Petroleum such as crude oil, natural gas, and bitumen; it is important to know their compositions. It would be easy for you to study and research this topic if you create your own study guide which includes all the important topics that you need to know about petroleum. You should also try to understand how they're formed rather than simply memorizing facts about them. This way, studying this topic will become easier for students like yourself who want help with Petroleum Final Exam preparation or review.