Advantages and disadvantages of oil

The Petroleum it is a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are those that are made from biomass that has been formed millions of years ago. In addition to oil, other such fuels are coal, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas.

Oil is a oily liquid (oily) composed of the substances carbon and hydrogen. It is insoluble in water. It is important to note that oil does not have a single shape but can have a variety of color and viscosity, as well as different proportions of carbon and hydrogen. For example, the density of oil varies between 0.66 grams per milliliter to 0.9785 grams per milliliter.

It cannot be manufactured by human beings, that is why it is among the non-renewable fuels. It is obtained from natural deposits that are between 600 and 5,000 meters deep in the earth. In these deposits, oil has been created by the transformation of accumulated organic matter, forming sediments. After being obtained through drilling processes, the oil must go through refining processes in order to be used in the industry.

oil production - natural fuel
Oil is a natural fuel.

It has been used by humans since times as old as 4,000 years BC. C., in the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon, and later in Egypt and in pre-Columbian cultures of what is currently Mexico. Could have medical uses, cultural (paint) and construction (as glue in buildings and boats). As a fuel it was used in the first place by the Chinese.

Although the refinement Oil began in the ninth century, spreading from the Arab populations to Europe, refining methods were only perfected in the eighteenth century, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when new machinery needed new products for lubrication.

From the 19th century it began to be used for the lighting, and finally the internal combustion engines drove the exploitation of petroleum derivatives in a massive way.

Disadvantages of oil

oil hydrocarbon spill
Volunteers cleaning up an oil spill.
  1. Non-renewable resource. Oil is one of the resources that human beings cannot create, therefore, it depends on the natural reserves that are already on earth. Estimates of the duration of oil vary between 30 and 55 years, if consumption remains stable. The problem with oil running out is that all technologies associated with non-renewable resources will have to be significantly modified. This means not only that, for example, the current means of transport will be useless without modification once the reserves are exhausted, but also that large sectors of the economy will be affected. 50 years is a long time in personal biography, but it is not so long in considerations of national and regional economies. On the other hand, the period may be even shorter, considering that consumption levels do not remain stable but are increasing.
  2. Combustion pollution. Combustion of all kinds produces gaseous and solid waste in the form of particles. The combustion of oil and its derivatives is not only one of the main causes of carbon dioxide (CO2) but it is also one of the causes of acid rain due to particles of sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides.
  3. Spill contamination. Since oil is insoluble in water, it is very difficult to clean. When spills occur, meaning that the oil reaches nature in liquid form, it adheres to the surface not only of rocks and minerals but also of living beings such as birds, fish and plants. Spills can be accidental, for example during transport on ships, but it is also often deliberate, since the sea is used as a repository for pollutants, without taking into account the enormous ecological impact.
  4. Wars. Indirectly, oil has been one of the triggers for armed conflicts, since countries that are large consumers of oil are motivated to initiate armed conflicts with countries that have oil reserves. Obtaining oil deposits is supposed to have been one of the motivations for the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.
  5. Contamination by derived products. Many petroleum-based chemicals are used as fertilizers and pesticides. Although these products may be (not in all cases) harmless to the crops on which they are applied, it is estimated that only 0.1% of insecticides reach pests. The rest is dispersed in the environment, contaminating the soil, water and even affecting nearby populations.
  6. Contamination in extraction processes. Some extraction and refining processes require the use of large amounts of water to separate the oil from impurities, affecting the vegetation that requires that water and increasing its contamination.
  7. Pollution by Garbage. Many of the products of the petrochemical industry, such as plastics, are not recyclable and none of them are biodegradable. This means that, once disused, these objects increase the accumulation of garbage on the planet.
plastic polluting water
Plastic waste also pollutes.

Advantages of oil

  1. Economic boost. Oil production and marketing is a business that can support entire national industries. Its commercialization implies the exploitation of a natural resource that offers enormous profits in comparison with the expenses that its extraction requires. In turn, its distribution offers millions of jobs worldwide. In addition, there are various associated industries, from the most obvious, such as automotive, to industries that use petroleum products, which are currently the vast majority of industries, from agriculture (pesticides with petroleum derivatives, machinery that uses fuels petroleum derivatives) to construction (pipes made from petroleum derivatives)
  2. Easy storage. Being a liquid and non-corrosive substance, it can be easily stored in barrels, without its transport presenting any danger (in addition to the aforementioned spills) if minimal precautions are taken.
  3. High energy density. Although alternative fuels are currently being sought, there is currently no fuel that comes from renewable sources that offers more energy in its combustion than that consumed by its manufacture. That is why the replacement of oil as a fuel is not yet feasible. For every kilogram, oil offers 42,000 kilojoules of energy.
  4. Constancy. There are other sources of energy (non-fuels) that are renewable and that compete with the energy provided by oil, for example solar energy and wind energy. However, the sun stops offering its energy at night or on cloudy days, and the wind can stop frequently. Rather, once extracted, oil is a constant and reliable source of energy.
  5. Versatility. Petroleum is not only used as a fuel (in multiple forms) but also as a raw material for multiple synthetic materials, such as plastic, PVC, Teflon, synthetic rubber, neoprene, and many others.