Oil, also know as petroleum (which means rock oil or oil from the earth), was formed from the remains of animals and plants that lived millions of years ago in a marine environment before the dinosaurs. Over eons, the remains of these animals and plants were covered by layers of sand and silt. Heat and pressure from these layers turned the remains into what we know today as crude oil.
Crude oil is a yellow-to-black liquid that is usually found in underground areas called reservoirs. Scientists and engineers search for these hidden reservoirs by studying rock samples from the earth and conducting seismic activities and other geoscientific analysis.
Crude oil is produced in 31 states across the country and in U.S. coastal waters. However, in 2009 more than 50% of U.S. crude oil production came from five states:
- Texas (21%)
- Alaska (12%)
- California (11%)
- North Dakota (4%)
- Louisiana (3.5%)
Fuels Made From Crude Oil
After crude oil is removed from the ground, it is sent to a refinery by pipeline, truck or ship. At a refinery, different parts of crude oil are separated into useable petroleum products. Crude oil is measured in barrels (bbls).
A 42 U.S. gallon barrel of crude oil provides slightly more than 44 gallons of petroleum products. This gain from processing is similar to what happens to popcorn, which grows in size and volume after when it is popped. The gain from crude oil processing is more than 6%.
One barrel of crude oil, when refined, produces approximately 19 gallons of finished gasoline and 10 gallons of diesel, as well as other petroleum products. Most petroleum products are used to produce energy.
Other products made from petroleum include:
- CDs and DVDs
- Dishwashing liquids
- Heart valves
Smaller Environmental Footprint
New technologies have greatly reduced the number and size of areas disturbed by drilling and production activities. Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies make it possible to discover oil reserves while drilling fewer wells. The use of horizontal and directional drilling also makes it possible for a single well to produce oil from a much bigger area. Today's production footprints are much smaller than those 30 years ago, thanks in large part to the development of movable drilling rigs and smaller slimhole drilling rigs.