Before I launch into this, I just wanted to tell you that this is just #1 of a series.  Today’s entry is about Gasoline and Oil.

What is gasoline?

The definition of oil is: any liquid substance at room temperature that is hydrophobic and has high carbon and hydrogen content. Oil can be petroleum based, vegetable based, animal oil based, or essential oil based.  What is oil? Natural Gas and oil make Petroleum, which means “Rock oil” in Latin.  Oil is made up of decaying fossilized sea creatures.  Oil is found as a solid, liquid or gas.  Oil is usually found as a liquid.  When liquid oil is sticky and black it is called crude oil.  When it is found as a clear and volatile liquid, it is called condensate.  When solid, it is called asphalt and when it is semisolid it is called tar.

The three main types of hydrocarbons (hydrocarbons are little water particles that keep oil liquid-ish) are: Alkanes, Aromatics, and Napthenes.  Saudi “heavy crude” oil has more Napthenes in it than in many other crude oils.  Saudi “heavy crude” makes up the bulk of the U.S.’s oil. 

Where do hydrocarbons occur?  Methane is a natural gas that is a simple hydrocarbon that develops bacteria.  It comes mostly from farms, but there are vast quantities of it under the ocean.  Flower and plant smells are produced by hydrocarbons as well.  Perfume makers steam and crush plants to get the essential oils out of the plant.  Human bodies produce hydrocarbons in the form of cholesterol.  Other hydrocarbons in the body are in steroid form of Progesterone & Testosterone.  The hydrocarbons in crude oil have chain or ring shapes.  In 2001, astronomers observed near a dying star some ring shaped oil molecules.

The history of ancient oil:

The first real use of ancient oil was “Bitumen”, or tar.  Bitumen was used to waterproof or glue.  It was the downfall of the burning of Carthage, because all Hannibal’s troops had to do was set fire to 1 house and up went the city. The Persians used a thinner form of Bitumen called “Naft” to fire flaming missiles into battle.  Because it was such a deadly weapon in battle, the Byzantine navy used Naft mixed with sulfur and quicklime, it was called Greek fire. In the Crusades, Jews dumped burning oil onto invading crusaders.  This idea was used back in Europe, where it was not used very often because oil was very expensive. Around the turn of the Common Era, the Chinese invented the first oil drill in Sichuan by using bamboo tipped with iron, they used these drills to look for salt, and when they drilled very deep they found Brine, (salty water) oil and natural gas, no one knows what they did with the oil.

Oil for Light. 70,000 years ago prehistoric people discovered animal oil for use as lamps. The ancient Egyptians used clay bowls that held wicks. The ancient Greeks improved the lamp design by adding a lid to the bowls to protect themselves from burning and sputtering oil.  The 1780’s saw a new design for lamps, which was a long chimney and a circular wick. Also, in the 18th century, America was the first country to realize the importance of whale blubber as good oil for lamps.  Soon the coast of New England was the biggest whaling industry in the world and blubber gave a bright, clean light. Demand for blubber was high.  Kerosene was developed in 1846 by a chemist. Kerosene is highly flammable, and is used for camping stoves and lamps.

The Dawn of the Modern oil age:

For 1000 years the Middle East had distilled oil for Kerosene. In 1853, a Polish Chemist figured out how to make Kerosene on an industrial scale.  In 1856 he set up the world’s first crude oil refinery in Poland. Up to this point people had been using whale oil. Whale oil was very expensive. Kerosene quickly replaced whale oil and everyone wanted Kerosene, especially the U.S. The first oil well was drilled in Azerbaijan in 1847. Many oil wells were sunk in the late 1800’s. In the 1860’s, Azerbaijan was responsible for 90% of the world’s oil and the name for it was the Black City.  In 1930 there were 26.7 million cars on the road in the U.S., now there are 62 million in the U.S.  There was so much money to be made in oil that people called Wildcatters started to drill oil wherever there was a sign of it.  Most went broke, but a lucky few got gushers and got rich.  Texas, Oklahoma and California each got very rich because of copious amounts of oil.  Also during this time, oil was used to make other products like plastic or nylons and Tupperware.

The first oil well in the Americas was discovered in Ontario, Canada. Within a few years, that area of Ontario was covered with derricks (frames for supporting drilling equipment).

The first oil well in the U.S. was in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Water wells there were often contaminated with oil. In 1901, some workers in Spindletop, Texas discovered the first Gusher. A gusher is oil forced up through a drilling hole by its own pressure.  Boomtowns. As oil wells were quickly dug, the workers for the wells needed places to stay. So they started towns. They were tough places built almost overnight. Some were quite literally “boom towns” because of the horrible storage of nitroglycerin often meant that towns could be blown up in a matter of minutes.

The big need for oil started with the big, gas-guzzlers of the 50’s and 60’s.  In the 1970’s, the result was a huge oil crisis.  Now there is even less than before and America keeps on chugging out more and even more gas-guzzlers. America’s dependence on foreign oil has been going on since the 1950’s. In the 1940’s FDR created alliances in the Middle East for oil. There has been a big demand for oil since the 1950’s onward. For a very long time, America and the world thought there was a never ending supply of oil. The 1970’s brought a big oil crisis, like when OPEC drilled less oil, and we started wars based on need of oil.  For example, Operation Desert Storm in the 1990’s.  When the Iraqi’s were retreating they set fire to the oil wells in Kuwait and made the U.S. help Kuwait try and put out the fires, to not make Kuwait’s economy dissolve and make Kuwait environmentally disastrous.  The fires burned for 7 months.

World opinion about U.S oil consumption is bad and many countries think that our environmental policies are going down the drain.  The world is using non-renewable resources.  The huge cost to the environment, the use of energy to move oil around is a problem.  The Exxon Valdeez incident on March 23, 1989 shows that things can be horribly built and take their toll on the environment.

Gasoline engine pictures

V8 engine from a Bentley

4.6L 3-valve SOHC V8 installed in a 2006 Ford Mustang GT

 GM 2.2L 16 valve 4 cylinder DOHC engine from a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

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