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Pros and Cons of Oil Energy

offshore oil rig

Oil or petroleum is a fossil fuel that is cleaner than coal as an energy source and consists of a yellow-to-black color liquid that naturally occurs in the geological formations located in the underground rock.

What Is Oil and What Are the Pros and Cons of Oil Energy?

Oil as fossil fuel occurs due to the fact that large quantities of dead organisms such as zooplankton and algae have been buried underneath the sedimentary rock where the intense heat and geological pressure has turned them into oil (petroleum).

Crude oil consists of hydrocarbons with different molecular weights and several organic compounds.

Oil is recovered from the underground rock using an extraction technique called ‘oil drilling’, but to find oil reservoirs, many studies of structural geology that will check the size of the reservoir will be conducted.

The characterization of the reservoir structure in terms of porosity and permeability and also the sedimentary basin analysis will be required before giving the green light for oil drilling.

The term ‘petroleum’ is used to cover both the unprocessed crude oil and the products obtained from refining crude oil.

What is Crude Oil?

Crude oil is refined through distillation to obtain a wide range of consumer products such as gasoline (petrol), diesel, kerosene (fuel used by planes), asphalt (bitumen, which is a highly viscous black and sticky liquid used in road construction), and a number of chemical reagents that are used to produce plastics and pharmaceutical products.

Petroleum is used in the manufacturing process of a wide range of materials, and estimates say that mankind consumes every day almost 100 million barrels of oil.

It is very true that oil has helped mankind to become a thriving and developed society where the living and safety conditions have been improved very much, but because the technology was built around fossil fuels for more than a century, it is hard today to understand that fossil fuels (including oil) cannot be considered the energy sources of the future mostly due to the fact that they heavily pollute the environment.

Oil is cleaner than coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but is dirtier than natural gas, which means that along with coal, oil will have a short life in the future of mankind (a few more decades).

Pros of Oil Energy

The advantages provided by oil are mostly related to its affordable price, reliability and the fact that is a fuel with high-energy density.

1. Is A Cheap Source Of Power

Oil is quite cheap to produce and refine mostly because today we are extracting oil using offshore oil rigs and by drilling in tar sands.

The technology required to refine oil is already old and matured, which means that is easy and cheap today to turn oil into usable products such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, asphalt and chemical reagents required to manufacture plastics and pharmaceutical products.

Today, we are all benefiting from the use of oil because the fuel is easy to transport on long distances to reach the rural and isolated human settlements, while the products obtained by refining oil are used on the entire planet.

2. Is A Reliable Energy Source

Unlike the renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy that are intermittent sources of power, oil as all the other fossil fuels represent a reliable source of energy for mankind.

An oil-fired power station can work 24/7 producing electricity because is not affected by the presence or the absence of the Sun, or the presence of the wind.

As long as the power station is supplied with oil, the energy production will be continuous.

Oil-based engines represent today a matured technology that is highly reliable and easy to maintain.

3. Is A Fuel With High Energy Density

The fuels obtained by refining oil are known as having one of the highest energy density levels among all the known fossil fuels (excepting nuclear).

Energy Density of Different Fuels (in MJ/m3)

  • 1. Kerosene – 38,346 MJ/m3;
  • 2. Diesel Fuel – 37,184 MJ/m3;
  • 3. Gasoline – 33,867 MJ/m3;
  • 4. Coal (Anthracite) – 36,450 MJ/m3;
  • 5. Coal (Lignite) – 12,015 MJ/m3;
  • 6. Methane (CH4) – 23,529 MJ/m3;
  • 7. Propane (C3H8) – 29,449 MJ/m3;
  • 8. Butane (C4H10) – 29,729 MJ/m3;
  • 9. Ethanol – 23,278 MJ/m3;
  • 10. Methanol – 17,855 MJ/m3;
  • 11. Wood – 9,000 MJ/m3.

The high energy density of kerosene, gasoline and diesel is the reason why these fuels are used by planes and cars on the entire planet.

4. Is Important For Many Industries

Oil is used to produce a wide variety of products from fuels (gasoline, kerosene, and diesel) to asphalt and chemical reagents that are required to produce plastics, clothes and pharmaceutical products.

Oil refinery

Oil refinery turning crude oil into useful everyday products.

5. Oil is One of the Reasons Why the Renewable Energy Sources have been Developed

Oil along with the other fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) are the reasons for the development of the renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, tidal, etc.

Fossil fuels still represent today the main sources of power on planet Earth, but because they are the reason for the massive air pollution and the destruction of the environment, many teams of scientists are working hard to develop alternative sources of power that can successfully replace the dirty fossil fuels in terms of energy generation.

We need to wait a few more decades until renewable energy will be able to successfully replace fossil fuels, and until then, the low-carbon energy sources such as natural gas will replace the dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil for a cleaner environment.

6. Provides New Jobs Every Year in the Sector

Last year (2017) the number of jobs in the conventional energy sector has been increased by 5% from 6.1 million employees to 6.4 million employees.

From a number of 300,000 new jobs created in the conventional energy sector in 2017, about 42,000 (14%) have been created in the oil energy sector.

Cons of Oil Energy

Oil energy has many disadvantages mostly created by the effect on the environment such as air, soil and water pollution.

1. Oil Energy is a Major Source of Pollution and Damage Made to the Environment Every Year

Burning oil for electricity and heat generation is a major source of air pollution on planet Earth that is causing the death of many people every year due to the allergies, cardiovascular and lung diseases produced by the toxic substances released into the atmosphere by the oil-fired power stations.

Oil spills represent a major disaster for habitats and the environment, and they occur pretty often all over the planet, which shows that the conventional energy sector has little to no respect for the environment because they consider that their work is not affecting the environment at all.

2. Oil Like the Other Fossil Fuels Is A Finite Resource

It is widely known that all fossil fuels represent finite resources and this is another reason why we need to develop new sources of energy (preferable clean) that can replace someday the fossil fuels for energy generation.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2017 that the reserves of crude oil, other liquid hydrocarbons, and also biofuels on the planet are enough to meet the world’s demand for liquid fuels by the year 2050.

However, the environment cannot wait by the middle of the century to see a phase-out of oil, and this is the reason why we need to introduce low-carbon energy sources (natural gas) on a mass scale instead of coal, because only this way we can meet the energy demand and we can lower the level of air pollution released into the atmosphere.

3. Emissions Produced by Oil Causes Acid Rain

Burning oil and other fossil fuels for energy generation releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulates and heavy metals like lead and mercury.

The presence of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere can cause acid rain which affects both people and the environment.

4. Plastic is One of the Products Obtained Through Oil Refining

You may say that plastic is a useful product for the human society because is durable and lighter than other materials.

However, when plastic is left in nature, causes damage to the environment because is a material that requires a very long time to decompose.

Plastic waste affects the oceans, because many people that have no respect for nature throw their garbage into the ocean without knowing that sea life will be heavily affected by their actions.

Millions of tons of plastic waste are removed every year from the ocean, but until they are removed, they have a major impact on sea birds and marine creatures.

5. Working in the Oil Sector Can Be a Dangerous Activity

The number of jobs in the oil sector grows every year, but the work in the oil fields can be very dangerous for the employees involved in the oil extraction process.

Year after year people involved in the oil and gas sector suffer different work-related injuries, some of them deadly.

The most fatalities can be found when oil is transported on unsafe roads or without using the seat belt, which leads to a large number of road accidents, some of them are killing the driver, produce damage and many collateral victims.


Oil in the mankind’s recent history, represented the fuel that powered the engine of the modern society, but for the future is no longer considered a viable source of power because is a finite resource and produces harmful emissions while burning.

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

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