Bookmark and Share

Uses of Oil – Heating, Fuel, Petrochemical Products and Facts for Kids

1 Comment

What is Crude Oil

Crude oil is a naturally occurring substance found in certain rock formations and below water bodies. Oil is a compound containing carbon and hydrogen and is highly flammable. Oil is one of the most important commodities in the world playing an important part in some of the biggest industries like chemicals, transport, power, petrochemicals etc. The high energy density and easy availability have made mankind almost completely dependent on oil for most of his needs. Almost all of the world’s cars run on petrol /gasoline which is derived from crude oil. Crude oil is a very versatile substance and we have listed out some of the major uses of oil below:

Uses of Oil

1) Fuel – The best-known of crude oil is gasoline, or petrol. Crude Oil is the primary raw material for the production of petroleum or gasoline. As we said before most of the world’s vehicles run on gasoline. The ease of production and usage of petroleum has meant that despite sharply increasing prices, customers have not gone for substitution. While cars running on Lithium batteries and CNG have been introduced, they have yet to take off in a big way. Almost all aircraft flying today run on Jet Fuel which is another refined product of crude oil. United States consumes more energy from petroleum than from any other energy source. In 2011 total U.S. petroleum consumption was 18.8 million barrels per day, or 36% of all the energy we consumed. In 2007, gasoline consumption reached a record high of 9.3 million barrels a day (or 391 million gallons per day), before declining to about 8.7 million barrels per day in 2011

2) Petrochemicals This is the second biggest use of oil after fuel. Almost all petrochemicals manufactured today use crude oil as feedstock. They are literally thousands of petrochemicals that are produced and some of them have become common household names. Some of them like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosene, gasoil and fuel oil are used as fuel as well. The main groups of petrochemical end-products are plastics, synthetic fibers, synthetic rubbers, detergents and chemical fertilizers.

3) Heating – Heating or fuel oil is used to heat homes and buildings, for industrial heating, and for producing electricity. 8 million households in the United States that use heating oil to heat their homes

4) Cosmetics – Hair oil is the most common cosmetic use of oil. Shampoo and hair oils, including coconut oils, continue to be the key components of this segment. Make-up, nail polish and lipstick are all partly made from oil. They are mixtures of such compounds as oils, waxes, perfumes, and colors, many of which can be made from petrochemicals.

5) Food and cooking – Oil is the primary ingredient used in cooking especially in frying food. All sorts of oil are used in cooking – olive oil, Groundnut oil, refined oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil, soyabean oil. Consumption of more than one oil has been suggested to get balanced quantity of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat required for the body, along with a variety of micro nutrients present in different oils. Research findings suggest that oils with high monounsaturated fat are healthier. Food additives are yet another petrochemical. Many of these additives increase the shelf-life of canned food.

6) Detergents – Most detergents used for washing clothes and utensils contain oil and petrochemicals. Most soapless detergents are made from oil products.

7) Medicines – Acetylsalicylic acid or ASA is the active ingredient in many of the well-known pain relievers. ASA is manufactured from petrochemicals.

8) Agriculture – Most of the world’s production on chemical based pesticides and insecticides are derived from crude oil.

Also read about Natural Gas Advantages and Disadvantages.

Advantages of Oil

1) High Energy Density – Oil has one of the highest energy densities which means that a small amount of oil can produce a large amount of energy. This makes it very useful as its high energy density has made it the preferred choice for use as fuel in automobiles.

2) Easy Availability, Infrastructure for Transport and Use – Oil is widely distributed in almost all parts of  the world. Also there exists a massive infrastructure to transport oil to other places through ships, pipelines and tankers. This means that oil is available throughout the world.

3) Crucial for wide variety of Industries – Besides Transport, Oil is a critical component in a wide variety of other industries. It is difficult to think of a commodity which has such a huge role to play in a wide variety of human products from Vaseline, cloth, medicines etc.

4) Easy to Produce and Refine – Oil is not very difficult to produce though most of the low cost locations have already been depleted. Now Oil is being mined off the coasts in seas and also tar sands. Oil Refinery Technology is also quite old and mature which implies that refining of oil to get valuable products like diesel, petrol is also quite easy.

5) Constant Power Source and Reliability – Unlike solar and wind energy, oil can produce power 24/7 and is highly reliable. Oil engines are a mature technology and highly reliable to work with.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. John Williamson

    Thanks for your analysis of all the products which come from fossil fuels. Unless we want to eliminate all our favorite consumer products made from crude oil and sacrifice our standard of living, we will be wedded to crude oil for the foreseeable future, even if all transportation was “green”.