Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How It Works: Oil Formation And Why It's So Important

It seems that I'm stuck at oil for a while there is so much about it to cover. Probably what most people are asking themselves when they see gas prices go up is : "Where does oil come from?" OK, to be absolutely truthful they probably yell : "Why the hell did the price go up again?!" This applies to all people around the globe especially Americans who guzzle oil like they do soft drinks. All over the world oil prices are rising and we can do nothing to stop it. Most of the oil available commercially is found in Middle Eastern countries where civil wars and terror have shifted the benefit of such a resource to a precious few. Some oil is already being extracted in Alaska as well as the Atlantic Ocean though this is not enough to satisfy the consumer demand of even the United States much less Europe. Oil has been fought over in many wars and will not be forgotten in future international conflicts, an example being the Gulf War and Desert Storm.

"Crude oil (petroleum) forms when carbon-rich organisms die and get compressed within an oxygen-starved environment over millions of years"
The official explanation of how oil is formed. Probably the most important thing that we need to remind ourselves from this statement is "over millions of years". At the rate which we are currently consuming oil-based products scientists estimate that they will run out in the next 60-80 years. Although this an opinion of only a few since new sources of oil are being discovered around the globe everyday. I'd estimate the real value at around 200 years even if our consumption increases exponentially. We just need to dig deep enough. Of course coal and natural gas are two other polluting substitutes there are not so efficient in their exothermic reactions. Petrol is composed from 83% carbon, 12% hydrogen  as well as from many other elements though in much smaller amounts. This makes oil a hydrocarbon meaning it can be burnt to release energy in the form of heat which can heat water to turn turbines generating electricity.

 Under the seabed plankton and other dead organisms are compressed into sediment under extreme pressure. After a large number of complex chemical reactions the lighter molecules form natural gas and the heavier ones: liquid petroleum.This oil is then extracted and refined for use in generators and vehicles. Of course a much complex process is involved in the making of petroleum but in this post I'm just covering the basics. Trust me when I say that nothing is more important in the modern era than oil. Many international powers such as Russia and China are emerging as the highest producers of oil even larger than Middle Eastern countries. We shall see what the future holds in store for us in terms of power production. We shall see.

Its off to the States for me tomorrow! I will try to procure some interesting magazines so that I may extend my ring of scientific knowledge even further.