GO IN DEPTH

Understanding Crude Oil

Understanding Crude Oil Photo Credit: Clipart.com

Introduction

In this lesson, you will explore how the mixture of different hydrocarbons that make up crude oil or petroleum are distilled and treated in the refinery process. Through this process, we acquire gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, asphalt, and many other products useful to our daily lives.


Before we focus on the details of distillation and treatment, watch the introductory animation called Oil Refining: A Closer Look, which you can access from your Oil Refining student esheet <http://sciencenetlinks.com/esheets/oil-refining/>. As you watch, write down answers to these questions. Be prepared to discuss your answers in class.

  1. Energy from the sun is used by plants to combine carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen into high-energy molecules. What is this process called? What is an example of a high-energy molecule made by plants through this process?
  2. What happens to most organisms when they die?
  3. Instead of decaying and decomposing like most organisms when they die, some organisms die in certain conditions appropriate for making fossil fuels. What are these conditions described in the video?
  4. What is kerogen?
  5. Why do you think kerogen is a high-energy substance?
  6. Over time, more and more sediment covered the kerogen, increasing the temperature and pressure above it. As temperature and pressure rose, what process broke or cracked the long organic molecules into smaller hydrocarbons?
  7. Under what conditions would natural gas be produced instead of petroleum?
  8. What is the difference between kerogen and petroleum?
  9. Why does petroleum travel up through the rock against gravity?
  10. How do petroleum deposits form under the surface?
  11. How is the stored energy within petroleum’s hydrocarbons released?
  12. Why do you think it is important to understand how oil is refined?
  13. What role does energy play in our everyday lives? What is its significance?

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