What is oil?

Oil was formed from the remains of animals and plants that lived millions of years ago in a marine environment. Over millions of years, the remains of these animals and plants were covered by layers of sand and silt. Heat and pressure from these layers helped the remains turn into what we today call crude oil.

Did you know crude oil can be sweet or sour?

Crude oil is called “sweet” when it contains only a small amount of sulfur and “sour” if it contains a lot of sulfur. Crude oil is also classified by the weight. “Light” crude oil has a consistency like water, while “heavy” crude oil is thick like tar.

After crude oil is removed from the ground, it is sent to a refinery. At a refinery, different parts of the crude oil are separated into useable petroleum products.  Crude oil is measured in barrels (abbreviated “bbls”).

What is shale gas and how is it produced?

Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be rich sources of petroleum and natural gas. The gas that is extracted from these formations is referred to as shale gas. Over recent years, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has allowed access to large reserves of shale gas. The production of natural gas from shale formations has revitalized the natural gas industry in the United States.

Shale gas is found in shale formations, or plays, that contain significant accumulations of natural gas and have similar geologic and geographic properties. Experience and information gained from developing the Barnett Shale in Texas have improved the efficiency of shale gas development around the United States. Geophysicists and geologists identify suitable well locations in areas with potential for economical gas production by using surface and subsurface geology and seismic techniques to generate maps of the subsurface.

Petroleum products and their relative share of total U.S. petroleum consumption:
  • Gasoline 46%
  • Heating Oil/Diesel Fuel 20%
  • Jet Fuel (Kerosene) 8%
  • Propane/Propylene 7%
  • NGL & LRG1 6%
  • Still Gas 4%
  • Petrochemical Feedstocks 2%
  • Petroleum Coke 2%
  • Residual/Heavy Fuel Oil 2%
  • Asphalt and Road Oil 2%
  • Lubricants 1%
  • Miscellaneous Products/Special Naphthas 0.4%
  • Other Liquids 1%
  • Aviation Gasoline 0.1%
  • Waxes 0.04%
  • Kerosene 0.02%

✓ The first known oil well was hand-dug in China around the year 350.

✓ The first modern oil well was drilled in Asia (in modern-day Azerbaijan) by the Russian engineer F.N. Semyenov.

✓ Oil was discovered in the U.S. in 1850 in California and the first North American oil well was drilled in Ontario, Canada in 1858.

✓ The first American oil well was drilled a year later. Oil wells in Europe were developed in Poland in 1854.

✓ The world’s largest oil field is in Saudi Arabia and covers more than 3,300 square miles.