Petroleum is a fossil fuel. Among other things, it is used to generate electricity, as a fuel and for the production of plastics. We use petroleum products every day in some form. But do you know how black gold is mined and Why Is Petroleum Called Black Gold in the first place? Let’s answer.
Petroleum is a mixture of substances found in the earth’s crust, which is created by the conversion of organic substances. Oil deposits are mostly found in sandstone, limestone, and dolomite layers.
How Oil Came Into Being Millions of Years Ago
Oil is very unevenly distributed on earth, like almost all mineral resources. Its formation only takes place under very specific environmental conditions, and these are not found everywhere. Petroleum is a mixture of substances found in the earth’s crust, which is created by the conversion of organic substances.
Petroleum mainly consists of carbon-hydrogen compounds. Dead marine organisms that have been deposited on the seafloor over the course of several million years are transformed into digested sludge by the absence of oxygen. This was covered by further ocean deposits and converted under pressure and heat by anaerobic bacteria into oil and also natural gas.
The Search For the Black Gold
Oil deposits are mostly found in sandstone, limestone, and dolomite layers. These layers of rock contain pore spaces that are filled with water. When the petroleum there comes into contact with the water in the pores, it rises until it hits an impermeable layer.
There it builds up and forms a deposit. Geologists and geophysicists look for such deposits through controlled explosions on the ground. It creates vibrations that spread out like waves and are reflected at the layer boundaries. These reflected waves are measured and recorded in a seismogram and then evaluated.
This data provides information about the possible existence of oil deposits. That is how the black gold is mined.
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Oil Drilling in the Sea
Ultimately, only a test well can prove whether an oil deposit was actually found. The drill pipe is driven into the ground using a drilling rig. Oil is not only extracted on land but also at sea.
In so-called off-shore extraction, oil deposits that are located underwater are tapped. This form of mining is more costly and labor-intensive because oil rigs floating on the sea must be set up.
Petroleum is Black Gold, But the Deposits are Finite
The main oil-producing countries are Saudi Arabia, Russia, the USA, Mexico, Iran, China, Venezuela, Norway, Great Britain, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Kuwait, and Nigeria. These countries derive most of their income from oil production and sales.
The world’s proven oil reserves amounted to around 236 billion tons in 2012. Added to this is the proven but not yet economically viable resource of around 450 billion tons. It makes a total of approximately 690 billion tons of oil. Annual consumption is approximately 4.5 billion tons. According to this information, the oil still present, would last about 153 years.
In fact, the range depends primarily on how economically we use the resource. However, this information is subject to some uncertainties. Since the black gold reserves will run out sooner or later, the oil price rises continuously. These price increases are not only noticeable on the crude oil market, but also on the wallets of consumers.
The Black Gold Processing and Use
The crude oil obtained is subjected to fractional distillation in refineries and broken down into its various components. To do this, the oil is heated to over 350 degrees Celsius. All of its components, the boiling point of which is below this temperature, thus change into a gaseous state.
The individual components can be separated from one another by stepwise condensation and further processing. Gases (methane, ethane, propane, and butane), petrol, kerosene (aviation turbine fuel), diesel fuels, and light heating oil are obtained from petroleum. Lubricating oils, heavy fuel oil, heavy oil, and bitumen are produced from the remaining residues.
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The individual components make it clear how diverse the areas of application of petroleum are. It is used to generate fuel for almost all means of transport and as heating oil for factories and households.
Power plants use it to produce electricity, and the chemical industry uses petroleum components to make plastics, dyes, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and many other chemical compounds. Looking at the usage of petroleum in various industries, one can easily understand why petroleum is called Black Gold.