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Petroleum, also called crude oil, is a thick and black liquid. It is a natural mineral as is mainly made of hydrocarbons. Most petroleum is found in the Middle East, North America, and Russia. It is the most important world fuel source. It supplies 38% of the world's energy and is also used to make petrochemicals.

Crude is chemically speaking a mixture of many different chemicals, mostly hydrocarbons, most of which burn well. It is separated into simpler, more useful mixtures by fractional distillation in oil refineries to give separate chemicals such as gasoline (or petrol) for cars, kerosene for airplanes and bitumen for roads. The bitumen gives crude oil its dark black colour; most of the other chemicals in crude are slightly yellow or colourless.

Petroleum can be easily transported by pipeline. Treated petroleum can be used as fuels; mainly gasoline (petrol) for cars, diesel fuel for diesel engines used in trucks, trains and ships, kerosene fuel for jets and as lubricants.



Petroleum resource is limited and non-renewable. Some believe it will run out within 70 years after a peak oil early in the 21st century. Burning petroleum or other fossil fuel adds the carbon in the oil to the oxygen in the air to create carbon dioxide, which is an air pollutant. The carbon can be removed from the carbon dioxide by plants.

There is a lot of crude oil left underground. Oil companies quote "reserves" which some people confuse with the actual amount of oil underground, but are more to do with the cost of extracting it by oil wells. Most of the crude left underground is in the Middle East which is not a politically stable part of the world. Some governments with lots of oil reserves work together through OPEC to keep production low and prices high. Policitians complain about high oil prices because voters complain. However many environmentalists worry about the damage being done by using oil as a fuel source (especially global warming) and are therefore happy that prices are kept high so that people use less oil.

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