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Chemical Composition of Petroleum

Petroleum Composition

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This is a sample of crude oil or petroleum.

This is a sample of crude oil or petroleum. This specimen displays a green fluorescence.

Glasbruch2007, Creative Commons License
Petroleum or crude oil is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other chemicals. The composition varies widely depending where and how the petroleum was formed. In fact, a chemical analysis can be used to fingerprint the source of the petroleum. However, raw petroleum or crude oil has characteristic properties and composition.

Hydrocarbons in Crude Oil

There are four main types of hydrocarbons found in crude oil.
  1. paraffins (15-60%)
  2. naphthenes (30-60%)
  3. aromatics (3-30%)
  4. asphaltics (remainder)
The hydrocarbons primarily are alkanes, cycloalkanes and aromatic hydrocarbons.

Elemental Composition of Petroleum

Although there is considerable variation between the ratios of organic molecules, the elemental composition of petroleum is well-defined:
  1. Carbon - 83 to 87%
  2. Hydrogen - 10 to 14%
  3. Nitrogen - 0.1 to 2%
  4. Oxygen - 0.05 to 1.5%
  5. Sulfur - 0.05 to 6.0%
  6. Metals - < 0.1%
The most common metals are iron, nickel, copper and vanadium.

Petroleum Color and Viscosity

The color and viscosity of petroleum vary markedly from one place to another. Most petroleum is dark brown or blackish in color, but it also occurs in green, red or yellow.

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