Technology has allowed us to extract crude oil and convert it into usable products

Crude oil has become essential to modern life and we have developed the technology to extract it from the ground and turn it into usable products. It takes a great deal of skill to extract the oil and then it must be transported to a storage facility where it is then distributed for processing. The processing plants vary depending on what the final product is to be. It is essential that safety is paramount at these plants because not only is oil highly inflammable but it is also very damaging to the environment.

Petroleum, along with oil and coal, is classified as a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are formed when sea plants and animals die, and the remains become buried under several thousand feet of silt, sand or mud. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form and therefore petroleum is also considered to be a non-renewable energy source.

Petroleum is formed by hydrocarbons (a hydrocarbon is a compound made up of carbon and hydrogen) with the addition of certain other substances, primarily sulphur. Petroleum in its natural form when first collected is usually named crude oil, and can be clear, green or black and may be either thin like gasoline or thick like tar.

There are several major oil producing regions around the globe. The Kuwait and Saudi Arabia's crude oil fields are the largest, although Middle East oil from other countries in the region such as Iran and Iraq also make up a significant part of world production figures.

The North Sea crude oil fields are still fairly full, and are arguably the second most influential oil field in economic terms. Texas, once the world's major oil region, is now almost completely dry.

In 1859 Edwin Drake sank the first known oil well, this was in Pennsylvania. Since this time oil and petroleum production figure grew exponentially.

Originally the primary use of petroleum was as a lighting fuel, once it had been distilled and turned into kerosene. When Edison opened the world's first electricity generating plant in 1882 the demand for kerosene began to drop. Click here to continue

Further information

How oil drilling works

Types of tank for storage

Oil refining and refineries