Crude oil. It’s more than fuel for our vehicles

We have all read that President George W.Bush has been pressing for a 20 percent reduction in our dependence on imported foreign oil. On the face this is a commendable goal. While investment in ethanol production is being touted there is more to the story. At a breakfast meeting this morning we discussed the oil refining process with a retired oil industry expert.

Previously I reported that oil industry refineries net 19.5 gallons of gasoline out of a 42 gallon barrel of crude oil. What some overlook is the remaining by products and petrochemicals which are also critical to our country’s economy. Where will we get these raw materials to produce products made from the remaining 54 percent of the barrel?

While chemistry was not my favorite subject in school let me share that heavy and light crude oil yields a host of products as indicated below.

The lower hydro carbon numbers, C1 through C6, yield methane, ethane, propane, butane pentane and hexane gases which are liquefied for various applications.
Continuing up the scale numbers C-5 through C-14 are used for gasoline with C-10 through C-24 used for #1 and #2 diesel products. Kerosene for jet fuel and tractors are in the range of C-9 to C-12. In addition you have heating oil, transmission oil lubricating oil in the mid ranges with asphalt, coke, tar and waxes at 70 or more carbon atoms.

Let’s make it simple for me, and the readers. A partial, alphabetical, listing of petrochemical byproducts made from crude oil include: antiseptics, artificial limbs, ball point pens, basketballs, bra’s, crayons, cosmetics, deodorant, eyeglasses, fertilizers, hearing aides, heart valves, house paint, ink, lipstick, nylon rope, polyester, PVC, sneakers, tape, telephones and tires. And the list goes on.

So as we read about $80 per barrel of oil the yield is much more than 19.5 gallons of gasoline. Think about all of the above products which also require our having access to crude oil.


About Larry Gilbert