Although the idea of a barrel full of oil is as familiar as the idea that a bottle of water is, most people are still astonished at what crude oil is made from. The question “What is crude oil made from?” requires a long explanation. However, it is also very easy — and accurate.

The EPA’s standard answer to the question of what is crude oil is “crude oil” — it is unrefined petroleum.

Although true, it is not enough to answer the question of what crude oil is made from.

The answer to the question of crude oil is not as simple, but it is more precise. However, this does not provide enough information to describe the components of crude oils. A more detailed explanation is needed because the valuable components of crude oil, hydrocarbons, fall under different types and categories.

The problem is that the answer to “What is crude oil made from?” is extremely complex. Because there are so many types of hydrocarbons, the exact number is not known. Moreover, even though hydrocarbons only contain two elements, hydrogen and carbon, crude oil can also contain varying levels of nitrogen, sulfur, and metals. The simple answer to “What is crude oil made from?” is hydrocarbons. However, the complex answer to “What hydrocarbons are found in crude oil?” is not so simple.

Although the answers may seem complex, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the types and categories of hydrocarbons. It is crucial to know the types and categories of hydrocarbons in crude oil. This is because these hydrocarbons are what make up the different liquid fossil fuels. We have diesel, gasoline, and kerosene (jet fuel), heating oil, bunker oil, and other hydrocarbons in crude oils.

What other value do hydrocarbons have?

Refining an oil barrel produces many types of oil-based liquid fossil fuels and oil because of the different types of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbon types and categories are also the reason that there are many other petroleum-based products. We have synthetics such as plastic, fiberglass, and carbon fiber from hydrocarbons found in one barrel of oil

Nearly all synthetic products are made from fossil fuel hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons found in one barrel of oil are the chemical construction of almost everything, from pharmaceuticals, antihistamines, and lipstick to dentures, balloons, charcoal briquettes, and lipstick.

Importance-of-Hydrocarbons Thought Experiment

To understand the huge role that hydrocarbons from crude oil have in our lives, one way to look at what would happen to football if fossil hydrocarbons disappeared. Hydrocarbons would mean no helmets or helmet visors, jerseys and pants, shoes, jockstraps, helmet visors, shoulder pads, helmet guards, mouth protectors, jockstraps, knee pads, elbow guards, head protections, jockstraps, trousers, or footwear. Hydrocarbons found in the oil are used to make artificial turf. Athletic tape is also made from the hydrocarbons found in the oil. Eye black is also available. Also, football could be played without hydrocarbons if it were not for socks.

Hydrocarbons are the most important utility commodity of the post-industrial age.

What are Hydrocarbons?

The obvious answer to the question “What is crude oil?” — hydrocarbons — prompts another question: “What are hydrocarbons?” Hydrocarbons are molecules that are made up of carbon and hydrogen bonds, chains, and other elements.

Different types of crude oil

Different types of hydrocarbons can be found in different parts of crude oil from different places around the globe. This means that there are many different types of oil.

PetroWiki.com explains that because of differences in composition, correlations derived from regional samples may not yield satisfactory results when applied crude oils from other areas.

There are three types of crude oil: heavy, medium, and light. You can distinguish the three main types of crude oil not only by their chemical composition but also by their appearance and viscosity. Light crude oil “flows fluidly” and has a golden hue. Heavy crude oil is a dark color and very sticky to the touch.

The crude oil types are often lumped together according to where they were taken. Because every barrel of crude from every well in every part of the world is unique, there are many types of crude oil. To simplify the classification of crude oil, only a handful of types have been historically tracked.

Only five types of crude oil are recognized by the oil industry: West Texas Intermediate, Maya Light, Arabian Light, and Bass Straight. The specifications for all other types of crude oil fall within the five categories.

Although there are many types of crude oil, they all have similar carbon and hydrogen compositions. Encyclopedia Britannica states that almost all crude oil has a range of 82 to 87 percent carbon and 12 to 15% hydrogen. These elements create a variety of complex molecular structures that are difficult to identify.

It is the way hydrogen and carbon combine to form fuel molecules and molecular chains that determine which types of hydrocarbons are found in crude oil. The question of “What are the different types of hydrocarbons in crude oil?” is also answered by the differences in crude oil types.

Different Hydrocarbon Categories in Crude Oil: Percentages

There is no significant difference in the amount of hydrogen and carbon in crude oil from one barrel to another. However, the percentages of different types of hydrocarbons can vary significantly. In barrel oil, there are four types of hydrocarbon molecular chains: aromatics, alkanes, and naphthenes. Crude oils are most variable because of these four hydrocarbons molecular chains.

  • Alkanes account for 30% to 30% of a barrel of oil on average, but they can vary from 15% to 60%.
  • Naphthenes account for approximately 49% of barrel oil. However, the range can be anywhere between 30% and 60%.
  • The average oil barrel contains 15% aromatics, but the composition of an oil barrel can vary from 3% to 30%.
  • Asphaltic accounts for about 6% of an oil barrel’s composition.

Each of the four main hydrocarbon types has sub-types, which is why there are so many different hydrocarbons in one barrel of oil. However, all crude oil contains the same four categories.

What are the Different Fossil Fuels Found in Crude Oil?

It is impossible to accurately account for all hydrocarbon types found in a barrel crude oil. A simpler way to find out what crude oil is made from is to ask which fossil fuels are in crude oil. The question is complicated because all hydrocarbons found in crude oils are technically fossil fuels.

It is much easier to see what a barrel contains if you break it down into the types of fossil fuels we recognize.

The EPA states that an average barrel of oil contains 22 percent gasoline, 11 per cent ultra-low sulfur diesel (diesel), four percent jet fuel (kerosene), one percent heavy fuel oil, bunker fuel, and 1 percent high sulfur distillate, heating oil. Six percent of an oil barrel is made up other products.