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What is Oil? – Origin, How is Formed, Properties, Uses, and More

What is Oil?

Oil is a bituminous substance, dark in colour and dense texture, composed of a mixture of organic hydrocarbons insoluble in water, also known as black or crude gold.

It dissolved nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, cholesterol, porphyrins, nickel, vanadium, nickel, cobalt, and molybdenum.

Given its multifacet chemical composition, oil is a non-renewable natural resource of enormous financial value.

It is used as a raw physical for various organic materials (obtained in the petrochemical industry) of multiple solvents. Above all, it uses as a fossil fuel to generate electricity and other types of energy.

Origin of Oil

  • Oil is due to the buildup of organic matter millions of years ago.
  • Oil is considered a hydrocarbon of fossil origin due to the accumulation of large amounts of organic matter millions of years ago, such as zooplankton (plankton of animal origin that feeds on processed organic matter).
  • And algae from lacustrine regions (lakes or freshwater reservoirs) dried up over the centuries, whose anoxic bottoms (without oxygen) bure under sediment layers.
  • Under these conditions, pressure and heat would originate chemical and physical transformation processes (natural cracking) that would produce various substances: bitumen, natural gases and other hydrocarbons such as oil.
  • Another theory about its origin is that they attribute it to abiogenetic sources (not organic matter).
  • This theory not entirely rules out, but it supports the minority of scholars on the subject since it cannot explain many of the contents present in oil without living beings’ prior presence.

How is Oil Formed?


The chemical processes formation of oil are pretty complex and link to geological traps (oil traps), which are subsurface structures conducive to the accumulation of oil.

They keep it trapped and without the possibility of escaping into the pores of a rock. Permeable underground (storage rock) or other similar structures. It is how oil fields arise.

The oil formation process is related to the decomposition of organic matter over millions of years. Organic matter will undergo an increase in temperature and pressure due to the layers of sediment deposited on it.

All this process that organic matter undergoes until it becomes oil can be divided into several phases:

Diagenesis (Anaerobic Decomposition)

  • There is no abundant oxygen at specific depths of the earth’s surface due to anaerobic bacteria that decompose organic matter.
  • It transforms into kerogen (a mixture of organic compounds present in sedimentary rocks).

Catagenesis (Transformation of Kerogen into Fossil Fuels)

  • Kerogen is an intermediate product between organic matter and fossil fuels. Kerogen can come from algae, plankton, and woody plants.
  • Due to catagenesis, kerogen can convert to anthracene and equivalent compounds or methane and similar compounds.
  • Thus, at high temperatures, it transforms into liquid hydrocarbons and gas.


  • It is the process in which gases form due to high temperatures.


  • They degrade from the hydrocarbons generated in the previous phases.

Properties of Oil


Oil is a dense liquid with colours that tend to black or yellow.

Oil is a liquid, viscous, dense colour tending to black or yellow (according to its hydrocarbons concentration), with an unpleasant odour (product of sulphates and nitrogen).

And a vast calorific (11,000 kilocalories per kilogram ).

Its physical properties (colour, density ) can be diverse, depending on the concentration of hydrocarbons present, which includes the following:

  • Paraffins (saturated hydrocarbons);
  • Olefins (ethylenic hydrocarbons that contain a carbon-carbon double bond);
  • Acetylenic hydrocarbons (contain a carbon-carbon triple bond);
  • Cyclic or cyclonic hydrocarbons;
  • Benzene or aromatic hydrocarbons;
  • Oxygenated compounds (derived from ethylenic hydrocarbons by oxidation and polymerization);
  • Sulfur compounds;
  • Cyclic nitrogen compounds.

Uses of Oil

Natural gas used to power stoves, lighters, among others. Oil is a powerful source of industrial materials, from which solvents, fuels, fuels, alcohols and plastics obtain.

Crude oil must be subject to various refining and distillation processes (fractional distillation) to extract its ingredients distinctly. Progressively animated from 20ºC to 400ºC, the oil splits into the following phases:

Natural Gas (20 ° C)

  • Fuel hydrocarbon gases such as ethane, propane and butane (liquefied petroleum gases) use to power stoves, lighters, etc.

Naphtha or Ligroin (150 ° C)

  • This substance called benzene or petroleum ether, a mixture of highly flammable and volatile compounds used as a nonpolar solvent or a base for other organic compounds.

Gasoline (200 ° C)

  • The quintessential fuel for internal burning engines (such as those in motor vehicles or certain electricity generation plants ) varies in rank according to its octane (purity). And also, it is one of the most coveted derivatives of petroleum.

Kerosene (300 ° C)

  • It also calls kerosene, it is a fuel of low purity and low performance but much cheaper than gasoline, used as a solvent, as a base for pesticides and lamps or rustic kitchens.

Diesel (370 ° C)

  • Known as diesel, it is a fuel calm of paraffin, ideal for heaters and outboard motors (diesel engines), cheaper but with much lower performance.

Fuel Oil (400 ° C)

  • And also, it is the heaviest petroleum-derived fuel that can derive at atmospheric pressure, used to power boilers, furnaces, and as a material to distil again to obtain asphalts, lubricating oils, and other substances.


For this reason, it massively extracts from its place of formation: the subsoil.

Their deposits (typically close to those of natural gas ) locate in the subsoil’s lower coats through extraction facilities known as wells.

And the liquid is extracted using various methods, according to the nature of the soil and the geographical disposition, which can on land, or the sea or of rivers, lakes, etc.

The commercialization of oil is the principal financial activity of many countries such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq or Iran.

Most of which establish their crude production around the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) guidelines, founded in 1960 and currently based in Vienna, Austria.

Also Read: What is Trade Marketing? – History, Steps, Target Sectors, and More

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