News about renewable energy and electric vehicles

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Petroleum

Oil pump in action

This naturally occurring fossil fuel called petroleum is used today to manufacture a wide variety of materials and products used in our the everyday life.

Petroleum Definition

Petroleum is a broad term used today to describe a combination of organic liquids and gases consisting of natural gas (mostly methane) and crude oil that is extracted from underground reservoirs.
Crude oil itself consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons and is used today to produce fuels for the transportation sector, but also to produce other types of products.

Being a fossil fuel, petroleum has formed when large quantities of dead organisms (mainly zooplankton and algae) were buried underneath sedimentary rock and subjected to both intense heat and pressure.

Today, petroleum is mostly recovered from the underground rock by oil drilling, but before the drilling process, intense studies of structural geology are carried out to establish the reservoir scale, the sedimentary basin analysis and the reservoir characterization in terms of porosity and permeability.

After extraction, petroleum is refined and separated by distillation, and after that is used to produce a large number of consumer products such as fuels (gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel), asphalt and chemical reagents used to make plastics and pharmaceutical products.

Giving the fact that petroleum is used to manufacture so many useful products for us, we can say that petroleum has many advantages, but because we are talking about a fossil fuel that releases greenhouse gas emissions while burning, there are also a few disadvantages.

Advantages of Petroleum

1. Is a resource that can be easily extracted from the underground reservoirs

Today, the technology used to find new reservoirs and extract the petroleum located there has evolved pretty much, and this is the reason why oil companies are now able to harvest this resource despite the climate conditions and the location of the reservoir (deep underground or even under the bottom of the ocean).

At the same time, the technology used to refine oil and produce petroleum products that will then be used to produce fuels such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene and other useful products has also evolved to a new level, making the entire process an easier one.

2. Petroleum is cheap to extract

Oil drilling has also evolved and this is the reason why after discovering a new petroleum reservoir, the team that will extract the resource will rely on a technology that reached maturity and can complete the job easily and cheaply.

3. Has high energy density

Exactly like the other fossil fuels (coal and natural gas), petroleum is a primary fuel with high energy density.

Energy density refers to the amount of energy stored in a given mass of a substance or system, which means that the higher the energy density of the fuel (in this case), the higher the amount of energy is released when burning the fuel.

Energy density of different fuels (primary and secondary) in MJ/kg (Megajoules per kilogram)

  • 1. Wood – chemical reaction – 16 MJ/kg;
  • 2. Coal – chemical reaction – 24 MJ/kg;
  • 3. Biodiesel – chemical reaction – 38 MJ/kg;
  • 4. Petroleum – chemical reaction – 44 MJ/kg;
  • 5. Diesel fuel – chemical reaction – 45 MJ/kg;
  • 6. Gasoline – chemical reaction – 46 MJ/kg;
  • 7. Natural Gas – chemical reaction – 55 MJ/kg;
  • 8. Uranium-235 – nuclear reaction – 3,900,000 MJ/kg.

4. Can be easily transported on long distances

Oil and petroleum products can be easily transported today worldwide due to the complex infrastructure created in this regard.

5. Can be turned into a large number of useful products

From the extraction wells, petroleum is transported using pipes or vehicles to refineries where will be refined using fractional distillation.

The distillation process is used to separate the different chemical components after their boiling point.

The hydrocarbons mixture is heated to a temperature where fractions of the compound will vaporize, and because the different components will vaporize at different temperatures, they can be separated from the main mixture.

We get this way from petroleum many useful things such as fuels (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, LPG, etc.), lubricated oil, paraffin wax and from the residues of the refining process candles, petroleum jelly, face cream, wax, and bitumen (asphalt).

6. Is a main component of the industry sector

Petroleum products are not only used by the transportation sector, they are also used by the industry sector as fuel or heating source, and also to manufacture vaseline, different medicines and even clothes.

7. Is a reliable source of energy

Compared to solar and wind power (which are intermittent sources of energy), petroleum is considered a reliable source of energy because it can provide power whenever is needed.

An oil-fired power plant can generate electricity 24/7 because the fossil fuel used to generate the steam required to spin the turbines will produce heat right after ignite.

8. Along with the other fossil fuels, petroleum has powered the creation of the modern society

Fuels obtained from petroleum have powered the modern society since the mid-1950s, when they started to supply energy for the different industry sectors, to provide fuel for vehicles, ships and airplanes (used to transport goods and people all over the planet), to be used as fuel for cooking and for residential and industrial heating.

Disadvantages of Petroleum

1. Petroleum is a limited resource

Like all the other fossil fuels, petroleum represents a limited resource.

Being used to produce fuels, different medicines, clothes, wax, vaseline, cosmetics and various other products, the demand for petroleum increases year after year.

The current consumption of petroleum is about 11 billion tonnes per year (globally), which means that the remaining reserves will last for another five decades (if we maintain the actual level of consumption).

2. Is a major contributor to air pollution

Burning fuels obtained from petroleum release greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter and other toxic gases that are a major contributor to air pollution on planet Earth.

The large number of vehicles with internal combustion engines (burning gasoline, diesel or kerosene) used today, have decreased the quality of the air, especially in the major cities of the planet, turning those places into a nightmare for all the people living there.

3. Petroleum is used to produce other products that are harmful for the environment

After refining, petroleum is used to produce many useful products for our society, but among them there is plastic, which is a non-biodegradable material.

Plastic pollution affects both people and the environment (it chokes our ponds, rivers and oceans and kills the sea life). Left on land, chlorinated plastics can release dangerous chemicals into the soil, which can reach and pollute the underground water sources.

4. Transporting petroleum products overseas can affect the environment

Due to the fact that oil is transported in very large tankers from one country to another, oil spills can occur if the ship suffers a breakdown.

Oil spills have already caused massive ocean pollution, which killed a large number of birds and sea life living in the affected areas.

5. Petroleum money can sustain terrorist activities

Petroleum reserves are available worldwide, which means that even some of the worst dictatorship states of the planet can use this resource to get serious amounts of money from selling the reserve.

The oil money can be then used to fund terrorist and other criminal activities worldwide.

Final conclusion

Petroleum has powered our society since the middle of the 20th century, and because the reserves will last by the middle of the 21st century, we can say that oil and other petroleum products are here to serve mankind for about one century.

By 2050, we need to already develop the renewable and the low-carbon energy sources on a massive scale to successfully replace the dirty fossil fuels (including petroleum) for a cleaner and healthier society.

Article written by:

I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues. I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people. Magda Savin


  1. Earle

    I like the valuable information you provide on all your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your green energy blog and take a look every day to see your new posts.
    I’m ready to spread the word to my friends and associates about your awesome website, which told me a lot about petroleum and other fuels based on oil.

  2. Sarah Packer

    My husband and I like looking at oil and energy alternatives in our house, so I wanted to know more about petroleum and its properties.
    I didn’t know petroleum has a higher energy density compared to coal and natural gas. I’ll have to call a petroleum regulation service in my area that can give me more info on the benefits of petroleum and how I could use it in my house, thanks to this post!

  3. Oyster Company

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this web site’s articles or reviews everyday along with a cup of coffee.

Leave a Reply

© 2012 - 2024 -