Oil is a major driver of economics, politics, and daily life. In order to be an educated citizen, a person must understand the most valuable uses of oil.
Oil is a huge part of the American economy. We consume, produce, and transform it in absolutely massive quantities. It’s so valuable that it has been a strategic consideration on the international stage whenever conflict arises. Many of the worlds largest corporations are companies that produce or process oil in some manner. Many people however do not realize that it is used for many more things than the gasoline that you fill your car up with!
Most valuable Uses Of Oil
No major surprise here. Gasoline consumption makes up a huge portion of the U.S. oil product consumption. In fact, for many Americans, our modern way of life would not be possible without gasoline. In particular, I’m thinking of the contemporary U.S. suburb. Life in a suburb would not be practical without gasoline. Our automobiles allow us to efficiently and quickly drive to work, to the grocery store, to the gym, and to our children’s school. Travel by automobile is so easy, that we often don’t have to worry about planning our daily route ahead of time; if something changes, we can drive to the new obligation no problem.
2.Distillate Fuel Oil
This is the second most valuable use of oil in America today. It can be used to keep your home heated during the winter. It can also be used as diesel fuel. This type of fuel is very common in industrial settings and is used for railroad engine fuel, agricultural machinery, and electric power generation. This is the fuel that drives the flames of industry, and is essential in the manufacture or transportation of many products that we take for granted.
3. Kerosene-Type Jet Fuel.
The third most consumed oil product in America is Jet Fuel. Americans love to fly, and flying requires jet fuel. It’s important to note that jet fuel is not a homogenous class of objects. There are different types of jet fuel, and the type you use depends on a number of relevant engineering factors such as the freezing or smoke point.
While Petroleum coke plays a much smaller role in the economy (percentage-wise) than the previous items on the list, it is the fourth most consumed oil product in the US. Petroleum coke is a solid black residue created during the petroleum distillation process. It is used in electrode manufacturing, the heating of steel industry ovens, and the production of chemicals. While petroleum coke is grouped with a group of fuels known as cokes, it is created from oil rather than coal. There are at least four basic types of pet coke: needle coke, honeycomb coke, sponge coke, and shot coke. The different types of coke may have significantly different properties, and they may be vary in their ash and volatile matter contents. Pet coke is one of the more controversial uses of oil. It emits carbon dioxide levels when burnt that are higher than traditional coal. Pet coke may also dispel fine particles into the air, which may be a source of respiratory irritation.
5. Residual Fuel Oil
Coming in at number five is Residual Fuel Oil, this type of oil is a heavy duty fuel that is used in factories, shipping, and for electrical power generation in thermal power plants. This stuff is significantly more viscous that other types of commonly used oil products. This increased viscosity combine with slightly different physical properties make it impractical for everyday use. However, when used with heavy stationary machinery, it can make an economical alternative fuel source for industrial operations.
6. Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG’s)
Believe it or not, you do know what Liquefied Petroleum gases are, and you probably have some in your house right now! These gases are sold in mixes that are more commonly known as propane or butane. These gases are often used for cooking or for heating.
7. Still Gas
These gases contain ethylene, normal butane, ethane, methane, propane, butylene, propylene and are used in the manufacture of petrochemicals.
8.Asphalt & Road Oil
The primary use of asphalt is in road construction where it is used as a binder for aggregate particles in the creation of road concrete. In America, we typically use the term asphalt for the product that is the result of oil distillation, and bitumen for the stuff that is found naturally. Asphalt is also more commonly known as tar. This stuff has a rather pungent odor, as I’m sure all people who have been stuck in road construction are aware.
Due to the ubiquity of oil, it is economical to derive a wide variety of commonly used chemicals from it. This makes petrochemicals one of the more valuable uses of oil. Petrochemicals are often divided into three groups depending on their chemical structure. The first group are called olefins, and they include ethylene, propylene, and butadiene. Butadiene is used in the creation of synthetic rubber and ethylene and propylene are used in the creation of chemicals and plastic products. The second category of petrochemicals are known as aromatics. Toluene, xylene, and benzene are all aromatics. Xylenes are used to create synthetic fibers and other plastics. Benzene is used in some dyes and detergents. The final category is called syngas or synthesis gas. Synthesis gas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and is used to make methanol and ammonia.
Oil and oil derived products are often used as lubricants. People often think the primary purpose of lubricants is to make things slick, but they have a variety of useful properties. Oil based lubricants can prevent the corrosion of metal, and may be used to reduce the damage done by heat and friction in industrial processes.
The last item on our list is kerosene. Kerosene has a long history, and historically it was one of the most valuable uses of oil. Kerosene was originally used as a light source, as whale fat had become too expensive. There was a time in our history when kerosene was the most consumed oil product, and gasoline was a useless byproduct. My how things have changed!
Want more oil facts? Check out our other article on how oil is made.