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Petroleum, named for "rock oil", is a fossil fuel usually found deep within the earth, although some deposits are very close to the surface.

It is a heavy dark liquid, consisting of many different hydrocarbon compounds. Crude oil is extracted from the ground and fractionated into its components by volatility in an oil refinery. Some of the main products distilled from crude oil are:

The following table[1] compares the qualities of various types of petroleum:

Fraction API gravity Viscosity
Gasoline 60 6
Kerosene 50 20
Diesel 45 100
Lubricating oil 30 500
Residuum 10 >105

Oil deposits are often found in concurrence with natural gas in a variety of geological structural or stratigraphic traps.

Geologists have deduced that petroleum is the remains of huge amounts of algal material that was laid down millions of years ago, and altered in form under high temperatures and pressures. Layers of buried plant material tend to produce coal or lignite.

Recently, researchers have shown that natural gas can form rapidly, supporting the idea that petroleum products could have been formed within the last few thousand years and is constantly being replenished, supporting the views of Young Earth Creationists. If this research is supported it would refute the idea that fossil fuels are diminishing.References

1. O’Donnell, E. 2005. “Rocks into Gas.” Harvard Magazine 107, no. 4.
  1. Stainforth, J., Nourse, R. & Nosiara, M., 2007, Basin Oriented Geology - Petroleum Systems Module Course Manual.