Petroleum is a naturally occurring liquid that is flammable and is formed from a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and liquid organic compounds. Petroleum is an extremely useful fuel and is obtained naturally from oil drilling. In it its purest form, the product drilled is called crude oil. This crude oil has to be refined since on its own it has various types of hydrocarbons mixed up that cannot be used as it is. Therefore fractional distillation is performed to separate and identify each of these mixtures at various boiling points to achieve end products that are useful and having their own properties.
Petroleum Refining Process
Petroleum products obtained from refining petroleum are gasoline, fuel oil, jet fuel, diesel and so on. Heavier petroleum products include asphalt, tar, paraffin wax and so on. There is a huge demand for petroleum products the world over and some are expensive. Petroleum is used to produce various other substances that are all heavily consumed today. Research shows that the world consumes about 90 million barrels of petroleum every single day. Some petroleum products and their uses are listed below.
Top 10 countries by oil production
United Arab Emirates
Top 10 countries by oil consumption
Most Important Petroleum Product
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG as it is commonly called is a flammable liquid that is a combination of various hydrocarbons. It is used in heating appliances, in vehicles, as a refrigerant, for cooking purposes etc. The most common forms of LPG are propane and butane. It is also produced by refining crude oil. Its boiling range is less than 25 ⁰C.
Petrochemicals as the name suggests are chemical products obtained from petroleum. Petrochemicals are classified as olefins and aromatics. These sub classes are obtained by the catalytic cracking of petroleum fractions. Its boiling range is between 30 ⁰C to 200 ⁰C. Petrochemicals are produced by the fractional distillation of crude oil and natural gas. Petrochemicals are used in fertilizers, wax, polish, detergents, food additives, synthetic shoes, dyes, plastic bottles and so on.
Gasoline is also referred to as Petrol and is a transparent liquid obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil. It consists of organic compounds and is mainly used in internal combustion engines. It is widely used across the globe and its consumption is so high that its prices have also soared and are continuously changing as per increase in demand. Gasoline is obtained by the fractional distillation of crude oil between 40 ⁰C (104 ⁰F) and 205 ⁰C (401 ⁰F), which is its boiling range. Gasoline is used in vehicles, electrical generators, compressors etc.
Jet fuel is sometimes called Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) and is primarily used for aircraft. This fuel is a combination of various hydrocarbons. The most common types of Jet fuel are Jet A and Jet A-1. The boiling range for Jet fuel (similar to Kerosene) is between 150 ⁰C to 275 ⁰C.
Kerosene, also called paraffin, is a combustible liquid containing hydrocarbons. Kerosene is used to power jet engines, for cooking, heating, lighting fuels and toys. Kerosene lamps are extremely popular. The boiling range for Kerosene is between 150 ⁰C to 275 ⁰C. Other applications of Kerosene are as a pesticide, as a solvent, lubricant, x-ray crystallography and so on.
Diesel fuel or petro-diesel is a derivative of petroleum. Diesel fuel most commonly used today is the Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel as it contains reduced amounts of sulfur in it comparatively. Petro-diesel is obtained by fractional distillation of crude oil with a boiling range of 250 ⁰C (392 ⁰F) and 350 ⁰C (662 ⁰F) at atmospheric pressure. The quality of diesel fuel is measured in terms of cetane numbers. Diesel is comparatively easier to refine from petroleum than gasoline. Diesel is mainly used as a vehicle fuel and engines using diesel are considered to be more energy efficient and have better fuel economy than for example, gasoline. Diesel is also used in gas turbines and external combustion engines.
Lubricants are mainly used to reduce friction between surfaces. A good lubricant has a high boiling point and viscosity. It is found to have thermal and hydraulic stability as well as a low freezing point. Lubricants contain 90 percent base oil and less than 10 percent additives. The boiling range for lubricants is between 300 ⁰C (572 ⁰F) to 370 ⁰C (700 ⁰F). Lubricants are also used as motor oils, transmit power, transfer heat, prevent corrosion and rusting etc.
Paraffin is a waxy solid that is used as a lubricant. It is typically a solid at room temperature. Its boiling point is greater than 370 ⁰C. Paraffin wax is mostly used in candle making, waxing materials such as paper or cloth, sealant, crayons, propellant for rocket motors, waxing surfboards, floors, cosmetics such as Vaseline and so on.
Fuel oils are obtained from distillation of petroleum. Fuel oil is the heaviest fuel that can be obtained from refining crude oil. It is produced by the fractional distillation of crude oil between 370 ⁰C (700 ⁰F) and 600 ⁰C (1112 ⁰F) boiling range. Fuel oils have many applications such as heating homes, offices and for the usage of trucks, ships and automobiles. It is also used as a back up in power plants and electrical generators etc.
Asphalt is commonly called Bitumen. Asphalt is a black and thicker version of petroleum that is obtained both naturally and as a refined product. It is also classified as pitch. Its viscosity is the same as cold molasses. Asphalt is obtained by fractional distillation of crude oil at 525 ⁰C (977 ⁰F). Asphalt is primarily used to lay roads. Other uses are for waterproofing products meant to seal roofs etc.
Tar is obtained by the process called destruction distillation using several organic compounds. It can be manufactured from coal, petroleum, wood or peat. The end product is a combination of various hydrocarbons and free carbon. The boiling point for tar is greater than 600 ⁰C. Tar has several uses such as a disinfectant, to seal roofs, hulls of ships etc. Wood tar is used as a flavor, spice, scent for spas, cosmetics, anti-dandruff shampoos and so on.
Subrata Sen on July 21, 2019:
b kartik on October 09, 2017:
nice for nice information
cenasteel on June 10, 2016:
It was very much useful to me and helped me to complete my assignment.
Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on September 08, 2014:
Aren't certain medications also derived from petroleum? I know petrolatum is (vaseline) which is commonly used in beauty lotions and also topical ointments. I do believe that most of our pharmaceuticals at least use petroleum-derived solvents in their compound. That's why I don't trust pharmaceuticals to be truly healthy for our bodies.
Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on April 01, 2014:
Stumbled upon your hub. Never realized there are so many products derived from petroleum.
Dilip Chandra (author) from India on July 03, 2013:
Thank you agusfanani
agusfanani from Indonesia on July 02, 2013:
Interesting information about petroleum products.
Dilip Chandra (author) from India on June 28, 2013:
Thank you Mike Robbers for going through my hub and commenting. Am glad you found my article informative.
Mike Robbers from London on June 27, 2013:
Interesting and informative hub about petroleum products. If you take a look at the uses of these products you come to realize how much are modern way of life depends on petroleum.
Dilip Chandra (author) from India on June 26, 2013:
Thank you Rock_nj for stopping by and leaving your comment.
John Coviello from New Jersey on June 26, 2013:
Interesting breakdown of the uses of petroleum. A lot of people probably don't realize how many things have petroleum in them, including most of the plastic items they use every day. I did some research regarding what uses petroleum back when oil prices were peaking around $150 per barrel in 2008. I was surprised that things such as automobiles require many barrels of oil to produce (which includes the components made from oil). Petroleum is used in so many products, including as part of the food production chain, that it is understandable why oil price spikes have such negative impacts on economic growth.