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Oil Frequently Asked Questions

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What Is Oil?

Oil, or crude oil in its raw form, is a naturally occurring non-renewable fossil fuel. While its composition differs between oil fields, it is primarily composed of hydrocarbons with other elements and compounds such as Sulphur. Crude oil can be refined fuels, oils and many other useful chemicals.

How Is Oil Formed?

Crude oil is formed over hundreds millions of years from decayed animal, plant and marine matter that has been enclosed and subjected to massive amounts of heat and pressure. For more details on how oil is formed please visit how oil is formed

Where Is Oil Found?

The vast majority of oil is found in the Middle East, however other countries such as Russia, UK, US, Canada and Australia also have proven oil reserves.

How Do We Get Oil?

Oil is obtained by drilling down great distances into the ground or in many cases the seabed. Often natural gas is found at the same time lying on top of the crude oil.

How Is Oil Transported?

Oil is generally transported either by overland pipeline or by sea in vast ‘supertankers’, which can carry huge quantities. Both methods have their drawbacks – pipelines can be attacked and compromised where they run through disputed territories and leaks from supertankers can wreak havoc on marine life.

What Is Oil Used For?

Oil can be used as fuel in its raw form though it can be further refined into petrochemicals, bitumens and chemicals used in the production of plastics. For more information please see uses of oil

How Much Oil Is Left?

OPEC represents countries accounting for 76% of the world’s oil reserves and estimates that at current demand levels we have sufficient oil remaining for around 80 years. It is also possible that further reserves may be discovered, although obviously this not guaranteed and will require vast amounts of costly exploration.

Can We Keep Up With Demand For Oil?

Yes and no. While current demand is being met, any increase in demand for this finite non-renewable energy source will simply result in existing reserves being depleted more quickly.

Does Oil Cause Pollution?

While oil is a much cleaner fuel than coal in use it is not without its negative environmental factors. Some oil fields have particularly high natural sulphur content and burning such fuels will not only produce the usual combustion by-products of carbon dioxide and water, but also sulphur dioxide and sulphur trioxide which combine with atmospheric moisture to form sulphuric acids that result in acid rain. Perhaps the most immediately obvious pollution problem associated with oil is that caused by leaks, which can cause immense environmental damage very quickly with a lasting legacy. For more information please see Oil And The Environment

Is Oil Safe?

For the most part, yes – although some of the chemicals formed through the refining process such as benzene (a known carcinogen) are extremely dangerous. In its raw form, crude oil is flammable but not particularly volatile. Most of the safety concerns relating to oil concern its transportation rather than the usage or handling of the substance itself and spills are difficult to clean up, particularly where it is released into the water.

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