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Where Oil Comes From?
Jan 16, 2018

Most of the bio-mass on earth is single cell plants and microscopic critters in the ocean. When these die, they sink to the bottom. Often they fall into a deep crevasse or trench, where they may become covered up by an underwater landslide. After a couple hundred million years of high pressure and no air, the critters get squished into oil. So, oil isn't really "dead dinosaurs," but Sinclair Oil stations just wouldn't be the same with a picture of algae on their sign. Today we like to find this stuff, pump it to the surface, and burn it.

The oil we pump to the surface is a mixture of gasoline, kerosene, light weight lubricating oil, motor oil, gear oil, tars, paraffins, waxes, asphalt, sand, dirt, organic stuff (called aromatics) and the occasional dead cockroach. We call this stuff crude oil, for reasons that I think are now self-explanitory. The oil companies have the singularly smelly job of separating the crude oil into its component parts. A hundred years ago we would just heat the stuff up in a complicated still, and catch stuff that boiled off at different temperatures. Fifty years ago we started processing the crude oil with clay and solvents to do a more precise job. Today, we use very complicated systems where we heat the crude oil to precise temperatures, put it under high pressure, and bubble hydrogen and other stuff through it. The idea of all this is to try to get pure chemicals out of this stuff that we just found laying around in the desert.

Most motor oil has a lot of different chemicals in it with very different properties. The temperature at which the oil will start burning, called the flash point, is determined by the chemicals that burn at the lowest temperature. The higher the flash point, the more stable the oil is at high temperatures, and the less oil your engine will burn. The pour point is the temperature at which the oil stops flowing like a liquid. The lower this number is, the better protected your engine is when it's cold. The thickness of the oil, that is the resistance the oil offers to motion, is called the viscosity. The viscosity depends on all of the various chemicals in the oil and how they react to each other and to heat. Importantly, as the oil heats up, it thins out, that is the viscosity goes down. The better the oil is at retaining its viscosity at high temperatures, the higher the viscosity index. All of these properties depend on all the chemicals in the oil. If you could get only one precise kind of molecule out of the raw oil, you could do a lot better than you can do with a mix.

Jan.16, 2018

www.lopalautochem.com

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