Uses of Petroleum

After water, petroleum is another liquid that humans are most dependent upon. It is a source of fuel and is mostly found in many consumer products. As such we will look at some points about this chemical substance in this page. To begin with, petroleum is a naturally occurring element which is in liquid state. It is either yellow or black in color. It is usually found in geological formations underneath the earth’s crust. Talking about the composition, petroleum is a mix of thousands of molecules and organic compounds. However, hydrocarbons of various molecular weights form the majority of them.

Moreover, the most prolific hydrocarbons found in the chemistry of petroleum are alkanes. It also contains cycloalkanes, aromatic hydrocarbons more complex hydrocarbons such as asphaltenes.

Petroleum is mostly recovered by oil drilling while its constituents are separated using a process called fractional distillation. The term petroleum covers both unprocessed crude oil and other products that are made from refined crude oil.

Different Uses of Petroleum

When we talk about petroleum and its uses, most of the people generally think of it as fuel either petrol or diesel. However, petroleum has been used in one form or another. It is an important substance across society, politics, technology including in economy. Besides, apart from fuel there are a lot of petroleum byproducts that show up in our modern life. Let’s look at some of the uses of petroleum below.

  • Agriculture
  • Detergents, Dyes, and Others
  • Plastics, Paints and More
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Rubber


When we talk about agriculture we are talking about fertilizers. Here, petroleum is used in the production of ammonia which serves a source of nitrogen. The Haber process is used in this case. Pesticides are also made from oil. All in all, petroleum based products are used extensively in agriculture as it helps in running farm machinery and fertilize plants.

Detergents, Dyes, and Others

Distillates of petroleum that include toluene, benzene, xylene, amongst others are used to obtain raw materials that are further used in products like synthetic detergents, dyes, and fabrics. Benzene and toluene which gives polyurethanes is often used in oils or surfactants, and it is also used to varnish wood.

Plastics, Paints and More

Plastics are mostly made of petrochemicals. Petroleum-based plastic like nylon or Styrofoam and other are made from this element. Usually, the plastics come from olefins, which include ethylene and propylene. Petrochemicals are also used to produce oil based paints or paint additives. Petrochemical ethylene is found in photographic film.

Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics

Petroleum by-products like mineral oil and petrolatum are used in many creams and other pharmaceuticals. Tar is also produced from petroleum. Cosmetics that contain oils, perfumes are petroleum derivatives.


Petrochemicals are also used in manufacturing synthetic rubber which is further used to make rubber soles on shoes, car tire and others rubber products. Rubber is primarily a product of butadiene.

Popular Products Made from Petroleum

Some of the products made from or contain petroleum are; wax, ink, vitamin capsule, denture adhesive, toilet seats, upholstery, CDs, putty, guitar strings, crayons, pillows, artificial turf, hair coloring, deodorant, lipstick, heart valves, anesthetics cortisone, aspirin.

These are some of the popular uses of petroleum. To know more about petroleum or fossil fuels you can keep visiting BYJU’s or download our app for interesting content and learning experience.

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