Fuels like gasoline, kerosene and diesel oil help drive the cars, trucks and trains that make the modern world go around. They also power many home appliances, including furnaces and generators. Fuels, which release chemical energy when burned, are also known as fossil fuels because they come from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago.
Beyond the fuel that you put in your car, crude oil is used to create a vast array of everyday chemicals. It can be found in everything from linoleum to urethane foam to plastics and more.
Once the petroleum is extracted, it is sent to a refinery where different parts are separated into useful products. These include transportation fuels (gasoline, diesel and heating oil), asphalt, petrochemical feedstocks, waxes and lubricating oils.
Oil provides the fuel that powers your car, heats your home and makes electricity flow to your appliances. In addition to transportation, the other major use of oil is to produce plastics.
Plastics are based on the chemical reaction of polymers formed by linking together chains of small molecules called monomers. A plastic product can be transparent, opaque or a combination of the two, and can have a variety of surface characteristics owing to additives.
Whether you own a pair of jeans or an e-reader, you’ve likely come in contact with petroleum. From the chemicals used to make plastic to the fuel in your car and the insulation in your home, crude oil is found everywhere.
Historically, lubricants for textiles have been natural oils or a mixture of oils from seeds and plants that undergo minimal processing. However, these oils often have a lower smoke point than refined oils and can go rancid quickly.