The Many Uses of Oil

Published: 29th June 2007
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Oil dependence is not just about the oil we use to heat our homes and the gasoline we use in our cars. The number of products made from oil is astounding. Almost everything in our lives is made from oil, made by machinery and systems dependent on oil, and transported by oil as either gas or diesel fuel. Oil companies, like Western Pipeline Corporation, are constantly looking for new sources of oil and natural gas to make these products.

Most Americans realize that plastics do not biodegrade and our growing landfills are a testament to this. However, many don't know that plastics are made from petroleum products. Almost 10 percent of U.S. oil consumption is used to make plastic.

Did you know that we use almost as much oil in our food supply as in our cars? Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials and in Western Pipeline Corporationtheir manufacturing. Over 25% of all farming oil and natural gas used goes into synthetic fertilizers. Natural gas accounts for 70 to 90 percent of the cost of synthetic fertilizer production. About 97% of nitrogen fertilizers are derived from synthetically produced ammonia.

How about that rayon shirt you have on? Polyester? Nylon? Synthetic man-made fibers are made from petroleum. Through refining, petroleum can be turned into many types of petrochemicals. These man-made fibers are woven into curtains, carpets and all types of clothing. These fibers are popular as they are often wrinkle-free and look better. They also do not absorb water, so mold and mildew aren't a problem.

The detergent you use to wash your clothes or in your dishwasher is most probably made from petrochemicals. Some are made using alcohols and ethylene oxide that are petrochemical products.

Have you thought about what chemicals are used to manufacture our medicines? Most medicines are manufactured from chemicals. Many of these chemicals are made from petroleum products. For example, acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA, is the active ingredient in many of the well-known, over-the-counter pain relievers. ASA is manufactured from petrochemicals. Actually, one of the first uses of oil was as a medicine.

Some medicines, such as penicillin, are made by organisms, but most are manufactured from chemicals, and many of these are made from petroleum products. Acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA, is the active ingredient in many of the well-known, over-the-counter pain relievers. ASA is manufactured from petrochemicals. One of the first uses of oil, dating back thousands of years, was as medicine. The Native Americans collected oil to use for medicine.

Oil has been used for thousands of years as a waterproofing agent for plumbing, boat building and brick bonding. Oil when it seeps to the surface leaves behind bitumen. Bitumen is the tarry component of the mixture. This is what's used for these waterproofing resins.

Another early use of oil was for illumination. American settlers collected it to use as a fuel in their lamps. The street lamps of the early nineteenth century were oil lamps.

Dyes are made from petrochemicals. Think of all the things that are dyed, clothing, ink, etc. Even candles are made from oil. Wax is a raw petroleum product. It's not only used for candles but for milk cartons and polishes.

Many other things are made from oil. It's hard to consider what our world would be like without oil. Most of these products can be made without oil but not as easily and affordably.

Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation.Western Pipeline Corp specializes in identifying, acquiring and developing existing, producing reserves on behalf of its individual clients.

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