All About a Barrel of Crude Oil and What It Consists Of

All About a Barrel of Crude Oil: What It Consists of and What the Different Levels Are in It

When crude oil comes out of the ground, it’s nothing like the neat, consistent petroleum products with which we are so familiar. Surface facilities are required to separate water, sand and solids, natural gas, and hydrocarbons out of crude oil before it is ready to be shipped, piped or barrelled to a refinery.

Even a barrel of crude oil is not a homogeneous mixture. Not close.

Crude oil is, rather, a combination of a wide variety of compounds, elements, gases, solids, and liquids. Barreled crude oil is a rich combination of different kinds of fuels from which we can produce gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, motor oil, asphalt, and tar, as well as fiberglass products, carbon fiber, polyester, neoprene, PCV, Hypalon, polyester and petroleum jelly.

Fundamental Components of Crude Oil

The U.S. standard for a barrel of crude oil is 42 gallons.

Once crude oil reaches a refinery, it is separated into component parts and those parts are cleaned and refined using a variety of processes: “A refinery runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and requires a large number of employees. A refinery can occupy as much land as several hundred football fields.”

While mixtures of crude oil have different ratios of the following fuels, the combination of fuels in most crude oil is roughly the same.

While gasoline does not burn the cleanest nor produce the most energy per unit of measure — a liter, gallon, etc. — it is the most plentiful fuel in crude oil. Gasoline makes up more than half of the fuel in a barrel of oil.

Of the 42 gallons of petroleum in a barrel of crude oil, roughly 22 of those gallons will be gasoline.

Diesel (Ultra-Low Sulfur Distillates)

The fuel in crude oil that makes up the second-largest sum in crude oil is ultra-low sulfur distillate. Of all the fuels in crude oil, ultra-low sulfur distillate burns the cleanest, at least with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is much easier to remove a much larger amount of the emissions diesel does emit than it is with gasoline and natural gases. Using pre-combustion catalysts like the Rentar Fuel Catalyst has proven to be one of the most effective means, because the Rentar also increases fuel mileage dramatically, but with respect to emissions, post-combustion catalysts can also be effective.

Furthermore, diesel fuel — the most common refined fuel made from ultra-low sulfur distillate — also produces more energy per unit of measure than any other petroleum fuel type, with the exception of jet fuel.

Jet Fuel (Middle Distillates)

Per the 42 gallons of crude oil, only about four gallons of those have the chemical composition required to make a fuel that burns at a combustion efficiency high enough to constitute jet fuel. Per unit of measure, no petroleum fuel produces more energy than jet fuel.

Contrary to the myth, using jet fuel instead of gasoline won’t dramatically increase the speed of a car. Jet fuel actually has a great deal more in common with diesel than gasoline. In addition to having a higher flash point than gasoline — which makes it safer — jet fuel is primarily composed of kerosene.

That means, like diesel, jet fuel will not freeze at temperatures that will turn untreated gasoline solid. “Kerosene jet fuel and diesel are actually similar enough to allow for cross-functionality, however, I wouldn’t recommend running a jet on diesel. Other than this just being a cool theoretical use, Toyota actually used jet fuel in the Toyota Hilux on their arctic truck 2012,” according to Wired.

But, unlike diesel, jet fuel has an extremely high sulfur content, which means that jet fuel is not a clean-burning fuel like diesel. Unlike diesel, jet fuel contributes exponentially higher GHG emissions per unit of measure than diesel.

Other Products (Residues)

There are six gallons of other products per 42 of crude oil. Residues are used to make things like refinery fuels, heavy fuel oil, asphalt, tar, and waxes. With respect to residue components, the lighter the product is, the more expensive it is. It is from residues that many of the high-tech plastics and poly products are produced.

Hydrocarbon Gas Liquids

While not generally as highly sought after as the other fuels in crude oil, they are of value. During the refining process, hydrocarbon gas liquids can be captured, contained, and sold for a profit. However, hydrocarbon gases are known for creating high amounts of greenhouse gases.

According to Chevron, here’s what just one barrel of crude oil can produce:

•Enough liquefied gases (such as propane) to fill 12 small (14.1 ounces) cylinders for home, camping or workshop use.

•Enough gasoline to drive a medium-sized car (17 miles per gallon) over 280 miles.

•Asphalt to make about one gallon of tar for patching roofs or streets.

•Lubricants to make about a quart of motor oil.

•Enough distillate fuel to drive a large truck (five miles per gallon) for almost 40 miles. If jet fuel fraction is included, that same truck can run nearly 50 miles.

•Nearly 70 kilowatt hours of electricity at a power plant generated by residual fuel.

•About four pounds of charcoal briquettes.

•Wax for 170 birthday candles or 27 wax crayons.

There are enough petrochemicals left in that same barrel to provide the base for one of the following:

•39 polyester shirts

•750 pocket combs

•540 toothbrushes

•65 plastic dustpans

•23 hula hoops

•65 plastic drinking cups

•195 one-cup measuring cups

•11 plastic telephone housings

•135 four-inch rubber balls

An interesting side light, roughly .04 cents per the cost of a barrel of oil will approximate the street price of unleaded gasoline in the U.S.  In other words if a barrel of crude oil is $49.00 X .04 = $1.96 per gallon on average of unleaded gasoline at street price.


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