Literally ‘rock oil,’ it is a general term for crude oil and natural gas. Primary source of automotive fuels and lubricant oils, petroleum is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and paraffins in some areas, and aromatics and cyclo-paraffins in other areas. Thought to have been formed from decomposition of animal and vegetable life under heat and pressure during geologic periods, it occurs usually in deep rock strata but sometimes near to the surface. When ‘cracked’ and refined, it produces hundreds of petrochemicals that are converted into tens of thousands of products, with new ones appearing continually.

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