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Petroleum (L. petroleum, from Greek πετρέλαιον, lit. "rock oil") or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights, and other organic compounds, that is found in rock formations beneath the earth's surface.

The term "petroleum" was first used in the treatise De Natura Fossilium, published in 1546 by the German mineralogist Georg Bauer, also known as Georgius Agricola.

Composition

In its strictest sense, petroleum includes only crude oil, but in common usage it includes both crude oil and natural gas. Both crude oil and natural gas are predominantly a mixture of hydrocarbons. Under surface pressure and temperature conditions, the lighter hydrocarbons methane, ethane, propane and butane occur as gases, while the heavier ones from pentane and up are in the form of liquids or solids. However, in the underground oil reservoir the proportion which is gas or liquid varies depending on the subsurface conditions, and on the phase diagram of the petroleum mixture.

An oil well produces predominantly crude oil, with some natural gas dissolved in it. Because the pressure is lower at the surface than underground, some of the gas will come out of solution and be recovered as associated gas or solution gas. A gas well produces predominately natural gas. However, because the underground temperature and pressure are higher than at the surface, the gas may contain heavier hydrocarbons such as pentane, hexane, and heptane in the gaseous state. Under surface conditions these will condense out of the gas and form natural gas condensate, often shortened to condensate. Condensate resembles gasoline in appearance and is similar in composition to some volatile light crude oils.

The proportion of hydrocarbons in the petroleum mixture is highly variable between different oil fields and ranges from as much as 97% by weight in the lighter oils to as little as 50% in the heavier oils and bitumens.

The hydrocarbons in crude oil are mostly alkanes, cycloalkanes and various aromatic hydrocarbons while the other organic compounds contain nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur, and trace amounts of metals such as iron, nickel, copper and vanadium. The exact molecular composition varies widely from formation to formation but the proportion of chemical elements vary over fairly narrow limits as follows:

Composition by weight
Element Percent range
Carbon 83 to 87%
Hydrogen 10 to 14%
Nitrogen 0.1 to 2%
Oxygen 0.1 to 1.5%
Sulfur 0.5 to 6%
Metals less than 1000 ppm

Four different types of hydrocarbon molecules appear in crude oil. The relative percentage of each varies from oil to oil, determining the properties of each oil.

Composition by weight
Hydrocarbon Average Range
Paraffins 30% 15 to 60%
Naphthenes 49% 30 to 60%
Aromatics 15% 3 to 30%
Asphaltics 6% remainder

Most of the world's oils are non-conventional.
Crude oil varies greatly in appearance depending on its composition. It is usually black or dark brown (although it may be yellowish or even greenish). In the reservoir it is usually found in association with natural gas, which being lighter forms a gas cap over the petroleum, and saline water which, being heavier than most forms of crude oil, generally sinks beneath it. Crude oil may also be found in semi-solid form mixed with sand and water, as in the Athabasca oil sands in Canada, where it is usually referred to as crude bitumen. In Canada, bitumen is considered a sticky, tar-like form of crude oil which is so thick and heavy that it must be heated or diluted before it will flow. Venezuela also has large amounts of oil in the Orinoco oil sands, although the hydrocarbons trapped in them are more fluid than in Canada and are usually called extra heavy oil. These oil sands resources are called unconventional oil to distinguish them from oil which can be extracted using traditional oil well methods. Between them, Canada and Venezuela contain an estimated of bitumen and extra-heavy oil, about twice the volume of the world's reserves of conventional oil.

Petroleum is used mostly, by volume, for producing fuel oil and gasoline (petrol), both important "primary energy" sources. 84% by volume of the hydrocarbons present in petroleum is converted into energy-rich fuels (petroleum-based fuels), including gasoline, diesel, jet, heating, and other fuel oils, and liquefied petroleum gas. The lighter grades of crude oil produce the best yields of these products, but as the world's reserves of light and medium oil are depleted, oil refineries are increasingly having to process heavy oil and bitumen, and use more complex and expensive methods to produce the products required. Because heavier crude oils have too much carbon and not enough hydrogen, these processes generally involve removing carbon from or adding hydrogen to the molecules, and using fluid catalytic cracking to convert the longer, more complex molecules in the oil to the shorter, simpler ones in the fuels.

Due to its high energy density, easy transportability and relative abundance, oil has become the world's most important source of energy since the mid-1950s. Petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics; the 16% not used for energy production is converted into these other materials.

Petroleum is found in porous rock formations in the upper strata of some areas of the Earth's crust. There is also petroleum in oil sands . Known reserves of petroleum are typically estimated at around 190 km3 (1.2 trillion barrels) without oil sands, or 595 km3 (3.74 trillion barrels) with oil sands. Consumption is currently around per day, or 4.9 km3 per year. Because the energy return over energy invested ratio of oil is constantly falling (due to physical phenomena such as residual oil saturation, and the economic factor of rising marginal extraction costs), recoverable oil reserves are significantly less than total oil in place. At current consumption levels, and assuming that oil will be consumed only from reservoirs, known recoverable reserves would be gone around 2039, potentially leading to a global energy crisis. However, to date discoveries of new oil reserves have more than matched increased usage. In addition, there are factors which may extend or reduce this estimate, including the increasing demand for petroleum in developing nations, particularly China and India; further new discoveries; increased economic viability of recoveries from more difficult to exploit sources; energy conservation and use of alternative energy sources; and new economically viable exploitation of unconventional oil sources.

Chemistry

Petroleum is a mixture of a very large number of different hydrocarbons; the most commonly found molecules are alkanes (linear or branched), cycloalkanes, aromatic hydrocarbons, or more complicated chemicals like asphaltenes. Each petroleum variety has a unique mix of molecules, which define its physical and chemical properties, like color and viscosity.

The alkanes, also known as paraffins, are saturated hydrocarbons with straight or branched chains which contain only carbon and hydrogen and have the general formula CnH2n+2 They generally have from 5 to 40 carbon atoms per molecule, although trace amounts of shorter or longer molecules may be present in the mixture.

The alkanes from pentane (C5H12) to octane (C8H18) are refined into gasoline (petrol), the ones from nonane (C9H20) to hexadecane (C16H34) into diesel fuel and kerosene (primary component of many types of jet fuel), and the ones from hexadecane upwards into fuel oil and lubricating oil. At the heavier end of the range, paraffin wax is an alkane with approximately 25 carbon atoms, while asphalt has 35 and up, although these are usually cracked by modern refineries into more valuable products. The shortest molecules, those with four or fewer carbon atoms, are in a gaseous state at room temperature. They are the petroleum gases. Depending on demand and the cost of recovery, these gases are either flared off, sold as liquified petroleum gas under pressure, or used to power the refinery's own burners. During the winter, Butane (C4H10), is blended into the gasoline pool at high rates, because butane's high vapor pressure assists with cold starts. Liquified under pressure slightly above atmospheric, it is best known for powering cigarette lighters, but it is also a main fuel source for many developing countries. Propane can be liquified under modest pressure, and is consumed for just about every application relying on petroleum for energy, from cooking to heating to transportation.

The cycloalkanes, also known as naphthenes, are saturated hydrocarbons which have one or more carbon rings to which hydrogen atoms are attached according to the formula CnH2n. Cycloalkanes have similar properties to alkanes but have higher boiling points.

The aromatic hydrocarbons are unsaturated hydrocarbons which have one or more planar six-carbon rings called benzene rings, to which hydrogen atoms are attached with the formula CnHn. They tend to burn with a sooty flame, and many have a sweet aroma. Some are carcinogenic.

These different molecules are separated by fractional distillation at an oil refinery to produce gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, and other hydrocarbons. For example 2,2,4-trimethylpentane (isooctane), widely used in gasoline, has a chemical formula of C8H18 and it reacts with oxygen exothermically:

2\mathrm{C}_8 \mathrm{H}_{18(l)} + 25\mathrm{O}_{2(g)} \rightarrow \; 16\mathrm{CO}_{2(g)} + 18\mathrm{H}_2 \mathrm{O}_{(l)} + 10.86 \ \mathrm{MJ}

The amount of various molecules in an oil sample can be determined in laboratory. The molecules are typically extracted in a solvent, then separated in a gas chromatograph, and finally determined with a suitable detector, such as a flame ionization detector or a mass spectrometer.

Incomplete combustion of petroleum or gasoline results in production of toxic byproducts. Too little oxygen results in carbon monoxide. Due to the high temperatures and high pressures involved, exhaust gases from gasoline combustion in car engines usually include nitrogen oxides which are responsible for creation of photochemical smog.

Formation

According to generally accepted theory, petroleum is derived from ancient biomass. The theory was initially based on the isolation of molecules from petroleum that closely resemble known biomolecules (Figure).
350 px

More specifically, crude oil and natural gas are products of heating of ancient organic materials (i.e. kerogen) over geological time. Formation of petroleum occurs from hydrocarbon pyrolysis, in a variety of mostly endothermic reactions at high temperature and/or pressure. Today's oil formed from the preserved remains of prehistoric zooplankton and algae, which had settled to a sea or lake bottom in large quantities under anoxic conditions (the remains of prehistoric terrestrial plants, on the other hand, tended to form coal). Over geological time the organic matter mixed with mud, and was buried under heavy layers of sediment resulting in high levels of heat and pressure (diagenesis). This process caused the organic matter to change, first into a waxy material known as kerogen, which is found in various oil shales around the world, and then with more heat into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons via a process known as catagenesis.

Geologists often refer to the temperature range in which oil forms as an "oil window"—below the minimum temperature oil remains trapped in the form of kerogen, and above the maximum temperature the oil is converted to natural gas through the process of thermal cracking. Sometimes, oil which is formed at extreme depths may migrate and become trapped at much shallower depths than where it was formed. The Athabasca Oil Sands is one example of this.

Abiogenic origin

A number of geologists adhere to the abiogenic petroleum origin hypothesis and maintain that hydrocarbons of purely inorganic origin exist within Earth's interior. Chemists Marcellin Berthelot and Dmitri Mendeleev, as well as astronomer Thomas Gold championed the theory in the Western world by supporting the work done by Nikolai Kudryavtsev in the 1950s. It is currently supported primarily by Kenney and Krayushkin.

The abiogenic origin hypothesis has scientific support from publications such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Extensive research into the chemical structure of kerogen has identified algae as the primary source of oil. The abiogenic origin hypothesis fails to explain the presence of these markers in kerogen and oil, as well as failing to explain how inorganic origin could be achieved at temperatures and pressures sufficient to convert kerogen to graphite. It has not been successfully used in uncovering oil deposits by geologists, as the hypothesis lacks any mechanism for determining where the process may occur. More recently scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesized under conditions of the upper mantle.

Crude oil

Crude oil reservoirs

Hydrocarbon trap.
Three conditions must be present for oil reservoirs to form: a source rock rich in hydrocarbon material buried deep enough for subterranean heat to cook it into oil; a porous and permeable reservoir rock for it to accumulate in; and a cap rock (seal) or other mechanism that prevents it from escaping to the surface. Within these reservoirs, fluids will typically organize themselves like a three-layer cake with a layer of water below the oil layer and a layer of gas above it, although the different layers vary in size between reservoirs. Because most hydrocarbons are lighter than rock or water, they often migrate upward through adjacent rock layers until either reaching the surface or becoming trapped within porous rocks (known as reservoirs) by impermeable rocks above. However, the process is influenced by underground water flows, causing oil to migrate hundreds of kilometres horizontally or even short distances downward before becoming trapped in a reservoir. When hydrocarbons are concentrated in a trap, an oil field forms, from which the liquid can be extracted by drilling and pumping.

The reactions that produce oil and natural gas are often modeled as first order breakdown reactions, where hydrocarbons are broken down to oil and natural gas by a set of parallel reactions, and oil eventually breaks down to natural gas by another set of reactions. The latter set is regularly used in petrochemical plants and oil refineries.

Wells are drilled into oil reservoirs to extract the crude oil. "Natural lift" production methods that rely on the natural reservoir pressure to force the oil to the surface are usually sufficient for a while after reservoirs are first tapped. In some reservoirs, such as in the Middle East , the natural pressure is sufficient over a long time. The natural pressure in many reservoirs, however, eventually dissipates. Then the oil must be pumped out using “artificial lift” created by mechanical pumps powered by gas or electricity. Over time, these "primary" methods become less effective and "secondary" production methods may be used. A common secondary method is “waterflood” or injection of water into the reservoir to increase pressure and force the oil to the drilled shaft or "wellbore." Eventually "tertiary" or "enhanced" oil recovery methods may be used to increase the oil's flow characteristics by injecting steam, carbon dioxide and other gases or chemicals into the reservoir. In the United States, primary production methods account for less than 40% of the oil produced on a daily basis, secondary methods account for about half, and tertiary recovery the remaining 10%. Extracting oil (or “bitumen”) from oil/tar sand and oil shale deposits requires mining the sand or shale and heating it in a vessel or retort, or using “in-situ” methods of injecting heated liquids into the deposit and then pumping out the oil-saturated liquid.

Unconventional oil reservoirs

Oil-eating bacteria biodegrades oil that has escaped to the surface. Oil sands are reservoirs of partially biodegraded oil still in the process of escaping and being biodegraded, but they contain so much migrating oil that, although most of it has escaped, vast amounts are still present—more than can be found in conventional oil reservoirs. The lighter fractions of the crude oil are destroyed first, resulting in reservoirs containing an extremely heavy form of crude oil, called crude bitumen in Canada, or extra-heavy crude oil in Venezuela. These two countries have the world's largest deposits of oil sands.

On the other hand, oil shales are source rocks that have not been exposed to heat or pressure long enough to convert their trapped hydrocarbons into crude oil. Technically speaking, oil shales are not really shales and do not really contain oil, but are usually relatively hard rocks called marls containing a waxy substance called kerogen. The kerogen trapped in the rock can be converted into crude oil using heat and pressure to simulate natural processes. The method has been known for centuries and was patented in 1694 under British Crown Patent No. 330 covering, "A way to extract and make great quantityes of pitch, tarr, and oyle out of a sort of stone." Although oil shales are found in many countries, the United States has the world's largest deposits.

Classification

A sample of medium heavy crude oil

The petroleum industry generally classifies crude oil by the geographic location it is produced in (e.g. West Texas Intermediate, Brent, or Oman), its API gravity (an oil industry measure of density), and by its sulfur content. Crude oil may be considered light if it has low density or heavy if it has high density; and it may be referred to as sweet if it contains relatively little sulfur or sour if it contains substantial amounts of sulfur.

The geographic location is important because it affects transportation costs to the refinery. Light crude oil is more desirable than heavy oil since it produces a higher yield of gasoline, while sweet oil commands a higher price than sour oil because it has fewer environmental problems and requires less refining to meet sulfur standards imposed on fuels in consuming countries. Each crude oil has unique molecular characteristics which are understood by the use of crude oil assay analysis in petroleum laboratories.

Barrel from an area in which the crude oil's molecular characteristics have been determined and the oil has been classified are used as pricing references throughout the world. Some of the common reference crudes are:

There are declining amounts of these benchmark oils being produced each year, so other oils are more commonly what is actually delivered. While the reference price may be for West Texas Intermediate delivered at Cushing, the actual oil being traded may be a discounted Canadian heavy oil delivered at Hardisty, Alberta, and for a Brent Blend delivered at the Shetlands, it may be a Russian Export Blend delivered at the port of Primorsk.

Petroleum industry

The petroleum industry is involved in the global processes of exploration, extraction, refining, transporting (often with oil tankers and pipelines), and marketing petroleum products. The largest volume products of the industry are fuel oil and gasoline (petrol). Petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics. The industry is usually divided into three major components: upstream, midstream and downstream. Midstream operations are usually included in the downstream category.

Petroleum is vital to many industries, and is of importance to the maintenance of industrialized civilization itself, and thus is critical concern to many nations. Oil accounts for a large percentage of the world's energy consumption, ranging from a low of 32% for Europe and Asia, up to a high of 53% for the Middle East. Other geographic regions' consumption patterns are as follows: South and Central America (44%), Africa (41%), and North America (40%). The world at large consumes 30 billion barrels (4.8 km³) of oil per year, and the top oil consumers largely consist of developed nations. In fact, 24% of the oil consumed in 2004 went to the United States alone , though by 2007 this had dropped to 21% of world oil consumed.

In the US, in the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is responsible for producing, distributing, refining, transporting and marketing petroleum. This non-profit trade association was founded in 1907, and is the oldest petroleum trade association in the United States.

History

Petroleum, in one form or another, has been used since ancient times, and is now important across society, including in economy, politics and technology. The rise in importance was mostly due to the invention of the internal combustion engine and the rise in commercial aviation

More than 4000 years ago, according to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, asphalt was used in the construction of the walls and towers of Babylon; there were oil pits near Ardericca (near Babylon), and a pitch spring on Zacynthus. Great quantities of it were found on the banks of the river Issus, one of the tributaries of the Euphrates. Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of petroleum in the upper levels of their society.

Today, about 90% of vehicular fuel needs are met by oil. Petroleum also makes up 40% of total energy consumption in the United States, but is responsible for only 2% of electricity generation. Petroleum's worth as a portable, dense energy source powering the vast majority of vehicles and as the base of many industrial chemicals makes it one of the world's most important commodities.

The top three oil producing countries are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States. About 80% of the world's readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5% coming from the Arab 5: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait. A large portion of the world's total oil exists as unconventional sources, such as bitumen in Canada and Venezuela and oil shale. While significant volumes of oil are extracted from oil sands, particularly in Canada, logistical and technical hurdles remain, and Canada's oil sands are not expected to provide more than a few million barrels per day in the foreseeable future.

Price

After the collapse of the OPEC-administered pricing system in 1985, and a short lived experiment with netback pricing, oil-exporting countries adopted a market-linked pricing mechanism. First adopted by PEMEX in 1986, market-linked pricing was widely accepted, and by 1988 became and still is the main method for pricing crude oil in international trade. The current reference, or pricing markers, are Brent, WTI, and Dubai/Oman.

Uses

The chemical structure of petroleum is heterogeneous (composed of hydrocarbon chains of different lengths). Because of this, petroleum may be taken to oil refineries and the hydrocarbon chemicals separated by distillation and treated by other chemical processes, to be used for a variety of purposes. See Petroleum products.

Fuels

The most common distillation of petroleum are fuels.Fuels include:

Other derivatives

Certain types of resultant hydrocarbons may be mixed with other non-hydrocarbons, to create other end products:

Petroleum by country

Consumption statistics

Image:Global Carbon Emission by Type to Y2004.png|Global fossil carbon emissions, an indicator of consumption, for 1800 - 2004. Total is black, Oil is in blue.Image:EIA_IEO2006.jpg|World energy consumption, 1980 - 2030. Source: International Energy Outlook 2006.Image:Oil consumption per day by region from 1980 to 2006.svg|daily oil consumption from 1980 to 2006Image:Oil consumption per day by region from 1980 to 2006 solid3.svg|oil consumption by percentage of total per region from 1980 to 2006: red=USA, blue=Europe, yellow=Asia+Oceania

Consumption

Oil consumption per capita (darker colors represent more consumption).

This table orders the amount of petroleum consumed in 2006 in thousand barrels (bbl) per day and in thousand cubic metres (m3) per day:
Consuming Nation 2006 (1000 bbl/day) (1000 m3/day) population in millions bbl/year per capita
304
1369
128
142
82
1201
32
187
49
27
107
61
61
58
Iran (OPEC) 68

1 peak production of oil already passed in this state

2 This country is not a major oil producer

Production

Graph of Top Oil Producing Countries 1960-2006, including Soviet Union

In petroleum industry parlance, production refers to the quantity of crude extracted from reserves, not the literal creation of the product.

# Producing Nation 103bbl/d (2006) 103bbl/d (2007)
1 10,665 10,234
2 9,677 9,876
3 8,331 8,481
4 Iran (OPEC) 4,148 4,043
5 3,845 3,901
6 3,707 3,501
7 3,288 3,358
8 United Arab Emirates (OPEC) 2,945 2,948
9 Venezuela (OPEC) 1 2,803 2,667
10 Kuwait (OPEC) 2,675 2,613
11 2,786 2,565
12 Nigeria (OPEC) 2,443 2,352
13 2,166 2,279
14 Algeria (OPEC) 2,122 2,173
15 Iraq (OPEC) 3 2,008 2,094
16 Libya (OPEC) 1,809 1,845
17 Angola (OPEC) 1,435 1,769
18 1,689 1,690
19 1,388 1,445
20 Qatar (OPEC) 1,141 1,136
21 1,102 1,044
22 854 881
23 648 850
24 802 791
25 743 714
26 729 703
27 667 664
28 Australia 552 595
29 544 543
31 380 466
32 449 446
33 386 400
34 377 361
35 362 352
36 334 349
37 344 314
38 247 250
39 237 244
40 South Africa 204 199

1 Peak production of conventional oil already passed in this state

2 Although Canadian conventional oil production is declining, total oil production is increasing as oil sands production grows. If oil sands are included, it has the world's second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

3 Though still a member, Iraq has not been included in production figures since 1998

Export

Oil exports by country

In order of net exports in 2006 in thousand bbl/d and thousand /d:
# Exporting Nation (2006) (103bbl/d) (103m3/d)
1 8,651 1,376
2 6,565 1,044
3 2,542 404
4 Iran (OPEC) 2,519 401
5 United Arab Emirates (OPEC) 2,515 400
6 Venezuela (OPEC) 1 2,203 350
7 Kuwait (OPEC) 2,150 342
8 Nigeria (OPEC) 2,146 341
9 Algeria (OPEC) 1 1,847 297
10 1,676 266
11 Libya (OPEC) 1 1,525 242
12 Iraq (OPEC) 1,438 229
13 Angola (OPEC) 1,363 217
14 1,114 177
15 1,071 170

1 peak production already passed in this state

2 Canadian statistics are complicated by the fact it is both an importer and exporter of crude oil, and refines large amounts of oil for the U.S. market. It is the leading source of U.S. imports of oil and products, averaging 2.5 MMbbl/d in August 2007.[3752].

Total world production/consumption (as of 2005) is approximately .

Import

Oil imports by country

In order of net imports in 2006 in thousand bbl/d and thousand /d:
# Importing Nation (2006) (103bbl/day) (103m3/day)
1 United States 1 12,220 1,943
2 Japan 5,097 810
3 China 2 3,438 547
4 Germany 2,483 395
5 South Korea 2,150 342
6 France 1,893 301
7 India 1,687 268
8 Italy 1,558 248
9 Spain 1,555 247
10 Republic of China (Taiwan) 942 150
11 Netherlands 936 149
12 Singapore 787 125
13 Thailand 606 96
14 Turkey 576 92
15 Belgium 546 87

1 peak production of oil already passed in this state

2 Major oil producer whose production is still increasing

Non-producing consumers

Countries whose oil production is 10% or less of their consumption.

# Consuming Nation (bbl/day) (m³/day)
1 Japan 5,578,000 886,831
2 Germany 2,677,000 425,609
3 South Korea 2,061,000 327,673
4 France 2,060,000 327,514
5 Italy 1,874,000 297,942
6 Spain 1,537,000 244,363
7 Netherlands 946,700 150,513
Source : CIA World Factbook

Environmental effects

Diesel fuel spill on a road

The presence of oil has significant social and environment impacts, from accidents and routine activities such as seismic exploration, drilling, and generation of polluting wastes, greenhouse gases and climate change not produced by renewable energy.

Extraction

Oil extraction is costly and sometimes environmentally damaging, although Dr. John Hunt of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution pointed out in a 1981 paper that over 70% of the reserves in the world are associated with visible macroseepage, and many oil fields are found due to natural seeps. Offshore exploration and extraction of oil disturbs the surrounding marine environment.

Oil spills

Crude oil and refined fuel spills from tanker ship accidents have damaged natural ecosystems in Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, France and many other places.

The quantity of oil spilled during accidents has ranged from a few hundred tons to several hundred thousand tons (e.g., Atlantic Empress, Amoco Cadiz). Smaller spills have already proven to have a great impact on ecosystems, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Oil spills at sea are generally much more damaging than those on land, since they can spread for hundreds of nautical miles in a thin oil slick which can cover beaches with a thin coating of oil. This can kill sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms it coats. Oil spills on land are more readily containable if a makeshift earth dam can be rapidly bulldozed around the spill site before most of the oil escapes, and land animals can avoid the oil more easily.

Control of oil spills is difficult, requires ad hoc methods, and often a large amount of manpower (picture). The dropping of bombs and incendiary devices from aircraft on the Torrey Canyon wreck produced poor results; modern techniques would include pumping the oil from the wreck, like in the Prestige oil spill or the Erika oil spill.

Whales

James S. Robbins has argued that the advent of petroleum-refined kerosene saved some species of great whales from extinction by providing an inexpensive substitute for whale oil, thus eliminating the economic imperative for open-boat whaling.

Alternatives to petroleum

In the United States in 2007 about 70% of petroleum was used for transportation (e.g. gasoline, diesel, jet fuel), 24% by industry (e.g. production of plastics), 5% for residential and commercial uses, and 2% for electricity production. Outside of the US, a higher proportion of petroleum tends to be used for electricity.

Alternatives to petroleum-based vehicle fuels

Alternative propulsion refers to both:

Currently, cars can be classified into the following groups:

Alternatives to using oil in industry

Biological feedstocks do exist for industrial uses such as plastic production.

Alternatives to burning petroleum for electricity

In oil producing countries with little refinery capacity, oil is sometimes burned to produce electricity. Renewable energy technologies such as solar power, wind power, micro hydro, biomass and biofuels might someday be used to replace some of these generators, but today the primary alternatives remain large scale hydroelectricity, nuclear and coal-fired generation.

Future of petroleum production

USA Today news reported in 2004 that there were 40 years of petroleum left in the ground. As similar statements have been made in the 40 previous years, it hardly carries the complex situation.

Consumption in the twentieth century has been abundantly pushed by automobile growth ; the 1985-2003 oil glut even fuelled the sales of low economy vehicles (SUVs) in OECD countries. In 2008, the economic crisis seems to have some impact on the sales of such vehicles ; still, the 2008 oil consumption shows a small increase. The BRIC countries might also kick in, as China briefly was the first automobile market in December 2009
  . The immediate outlook still hints upwards.

In the long term, uncertainties loiter ; the OPEC believes that the OECD countries will push low consumption policies at some point in the future ; when that happens, it will definitely curb the oil sales, and both OPEC and EIA kept lowering their 2020 consumption estimates during the past 5 years . Oil products are more and more in competition with alternative sources, mainly coal and natural gas, both cheaper sources.

Production will also face an increasingly complex situation ; while OPEC countries still have large reserves at low production prices, newly found reservoirs often lead to higher prices ; offshore giants such as Tupi, Guara and Tiber demand high investments and ever-increasing technological abilities. Subsalt reservoirs such as Tupi were unknown in the twentieth century, mainly because the industry was unable to probe them. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) techniques (example : DaQing, China ) will continue to play a major role in increasing the world's recoverable oil.

Hubbert peak theory

The Hubbert peak theory (also known as peak oil) posits that future petroleum production (whether for individual oil wells, entire oil fields, whole countries, or worldwide production) will eventually peak and then decline at a similar rate to the rate of increase before the peak as these reserves are exhausted. The peak of oil discoveries was in 1965, and oil production per year has surpassed oil discoveries every year since 1980.

Controversy surrounds predictions of the timing of the global peak, as these predictions are dependent on the past production and discovery data used in the calculation as well as how unconventional reserves are considered . Also, these predictions do not take into account outside elements such as the current economic crisis (2008) . Also, many Peak Oil promoters proposed many different dates, some of them passed already .

It is difficult to predict the oil peak in any given region, due to the lack of knowledge and/or transparency in accounting of global oil reserves. Based on available production data, proponents have previously predicted the peak for the world to be in years 1989, 1995, or 1995-2000. Some of these predictions date from before the recession of the early 1980s, and the consequent reduction in global consumption, the effect of which was to delay the date of any peak by several years. Just as the 1971 U.S. peak in oil production was only clearly recognized after the fact, a peak in world production will be difficult to discern until production clearly drops off.

References

1. translated 1955
2. IEA Key World Energy Statistics
3. "Crude oil is made into different fuels"
4. EIA reserves estimates
5. CERA report on total world oil
6. Heat of Combustion of Fuels
7. Use of ozone depleting substances in laboratories. TemaNord 2003:516. http://www.norden.org/pub/ebook/2003-516.pdf
8. Keith A. Kvenvolden “Organic geochemistry – A retrospective of its first 70 years” Organic Geochemistry 37 (2006) 1–11.
9. Petroleum Study
10. http://oilismastery.blogspot.com/2008/05/oil-window.html
11. Kenney et al., Dismissal of the Claims of a Biological Connection for Natural Petroleum, Energia 2001
12. http://www.pnas.org/content/99/17/10976.full
13. Hydrocarbons in the deep Earth? July 2009 news release.
15. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Excel file RecentPetroleumConsumptionBarrelsperDay.xls from web page http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_wco_k_w.htm (direct link: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/RecentPetroleumConsumptionBarrelsperDay.xls) "Table Posted: November 7, 2008"
16. From DSW-Datareport 2006 ("Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung")
17. One cubic metre of oil is equivalent to 6.28981077 barrels of oil
18. IndexMundi. South Korea Population - Demographics. "48,846,823" ... "July 2006 est." Retrieved 2008-11-11
19. Sources vary: 24,600,000 from ; while IndexMundi listed a July 2006 estimate of 27,019,73:
20. IndexMundi. France Population - Demographics. "60,876,136" ... "July 2006 est." Retrieved 2008-11-11
21. IndexMundi. United Kingdom Population - Demographics. "60,609,153" ... "July 2006 est." Retrieved 2008-11-11
22. IndexMundi. Italy Population - Demographics. "58,133,509" ... "July 2006 est." Retrieved 2008-11-11
23. IndexMundi. Iran Population - Demographics. "68,688,433" ... "July 2006 est." Retrieved 2008-11-11
24. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec11_10.pdf
25. Waste discharges during the offshore oil and gas activity by Stanislave Patin, tr. Elena Cascio
26. Torrey Canyon bombing by the Navy and RAF
27. Pumping of the Erika cargo
28. How Capitalism Saved the Whales by James S. Robbins, The Freeman, August, 1992.
29. "U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2007". Energy Information Administration
30. needtitleUN Energy Program
31. Amory B. Lovins, E. Kyle Datta, Odd-Even Bustnes, Jonathan G. Koomey, Nathan J. Glasgow. "Winning the oil endgame" Rocky Mountain Institute
32. Bioprocessing Seattle Times (2003)
33. New study raises doubts about Saudi oil reserves