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The Story of Crude Oil

Team StoryWeavers|July 4, 2020|

The story of liquid gold

Did you know that your shoes, mobile phones, vaseline, chewing gum and even some medicinal pills all contain one common element – plastic.

Yes, you read that right, but what’s even more fascinating is that this very plastic comes from an unlikely source – crude oil!

What is Crude Oil?

Crude oil or petroleum is a naturally occurring fossil fuel, which is a result of organic matter that has been converted into hydrocarbons over millions of years.

Exactly How Important is Crude Oil for humans?

Well, if this had to be answered in one line – crude oil lead to some of the most horrifying wars amongst mankind.

For years humans relied on coal as a source of energy, but that changed with World War I.  

Not much was known about the many uses of crude oil until the 1900s. The first commercial oil well was discovered in Persia (modern-day Iran) in the early 20th century. Just then with the advent of  World War I (1914 – 1918), humans understood that crude oil was more efficient fuel than coal. Since then, all the powerful countries started looking for sources of crude oil. It became an established fact by the end of World War II (1939- 1945 ) that crude oil is not only necessary for a country’s safety and defence but also for uses in everyday life like running a car, flying planes, manufacturing roads, plastics and much more. 

By the 1950s it became well known that a few handful of countries from the Middle East were the most blessed with crude oil deposits. This led to a lot of international tension amongst the powerful nations, all wanting to ensure a steady supply of oil to themselves. Around the same time, most of the Middle Eastern countries became independent from their colonisers, realizing just how much power lies literally beneath their feet. All the leaders from these Middle Eastern countries formed an organization named OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) to stabilize and monitor the oil trade. 

Map of Middle East

Middle Eastern Countries on World Map

Let’s understand further exactly why crude oil is so precious that it gets the name ‘Black Gold’or Liquid Gold!

What all can we get from one barrel of Crude Oil?

Right from its discovery, crude oil has been transported in barrels, as back then the only other similar commodity to be traded long distances was whiskey, and it used to be transported in barrels. 

Till date oil is measured in barrels only. According to a documentary – History 101, following is extracted from just a single barrel of oil:

  1. Enough gas to drive a car 450 kilometers and 64 kilometers or a large truck 
  2. 3.7 litres of tar for covering roads and roof
  3. Almost 1 litre of motor oil for car engines
  4. Plastic to make at least 540 toothbrushes
  5. And still enough left to make 135 plastic rubber balls

Now the question is how does one extract all these from crude oil? Find out the answer to this question in this video:

While crude oil has been quite an integral part of our daily lives, at the current rate of consumption, it’s only a matter of time until we run out of all the reservoirs. Interestingly enough, for the first time in history, crude oil prices dropped as low as – $16 in April 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. What this means is that the supply of crude oil is much more than the demand for it. The drop in prices is because the pandemic led to a halt of many activities like air travel, daily car commutes by millions of people and factories that used crude oil for various purposes. While this might be a problem for the global economy at large, it has brought about several unprecedented changes in our environment.

Many environmentalists have been rooting for a shift to more environmentally friendly alternatives for fuelling purposes like solar energy and wind energy among others. It is not only important to save a non-renewable energy source but also to save the planet from the many forms of pollution that come from crude oil like air pollution from cars, water pollution from dumping waste into sea beds etc.

What did you learn about crude oil that you didn’t know? How do you think we can be more responsible with the use of petroleum? Tell us below. Share with us in the comment section.

If you enjoyed this story, you may also like:

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About the Author


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Charu Verma

Charu, a feminist and an accidental writer, is yet to master the art of writing about herself. Always curious to learn new stuff, she ends up spending a lot of time unlearning the incorrect lessons. She enjoys all sorts of stories – real, fictional, new, old, hers and would love hearing yours too. Feel free to ping her at storyweavers@byjus.com to share anything that you think is worth sharing.

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