Petroleum is a liquid mineral resource with good combustibility. Its unit calorific value is twice as high as that of coal. It also has the advantages of being cleaner than coal and convenient for transportation. At present, petroleum is not only the main energy source of developed countries in the world, but also an important industrial raw material; it is not only an important military material, but also a necessity of daily life.
Petroleum is a high-quality power fuel. Burning 1kg of petroleum can produce about 40,000J of heat. Modern industry, national defense, and transportation rely heavily on oil. Aircraft, automobiles, tractors, missiles, tanks, rockets and other high-speed, powerful vehicles and weapons mainly rely on petroleum products—gasoline, diesel, and kerosene as power sources.
Petroleum is also an important chemical raw material. People’s food, clothing, housing and transportation are inseparable from petroleum products. According to statistics, there are currently more than 5,000 types of petroleum products, which have penetrated into all areas of human life. For example, the three major synthetic materials–plastics, synthetic rubber, and synthetic fibers–are all products produced by using petroleum as a raw material and undergoing many chemical processes.
Although the discovery of oil can be traced back to ancient times, it has only been developed and used as an economic resource for more than 100 years. At the end of the 19th century, the British first extracted kerosene from petroleum as a lighting fuel. In 1859, the United States drilled its first oil well, creating the world’s modern petroleum industry. The coal industry is dwarfed by oil that is more energy-efficient and more convenient to process, convert, transport, store and use. At the beginning of the 20th century, due to the promotion of internal combustion engines and the advent of gasoline engines, as well as the subsequent development of the automobile industry, petroleum gradually became more widely used and played an increasingly important role in the economic and military activities of various countries. .
In the Second World War, the important role of oil was particularly prominent. According to statistics, from 1939 to 1945, the 40 million vehicles, 150,000 tanks, and 200,000 aircraft used in the war were all powered by petroleum products. Based on the universal application of petroleum and electric power as power and raw materials, electric motors and internal combustion engines, the petroleum industry, electric power industry, automobile industry, aviation industry, steel industry and chemical industry have developed rapidly. In 1940, world oil production was only 250 million tons. In 1950, it increased to 520 million tons, to 1.05 billion tons in 1960, to 2.2 billion tons in 1970, and it doubled every year thereafter. Europe, the United States, Japan, and the former Soviet Union have successively reformed their energy structure, replacing coal with oil as the main energy source. At the same time, since the 1950s, the synthetic chemical industry, which uses petroleum as the main raw material, has also flourished. Oil production exceeds 50% of the world’s total energy. Since then, mankind has entered the oil age. As a major material resource, oil plays a pivotal role in the economic fields of the world’s industrialized countries and other social fields. Today, petrochemical energy controls people’s lifestyles. Whether it is automobiles, airplanes, industrial kilns, gas turbine fuels, machinery and devices that have never appeared in nature, and materials with different properties, they all benefit from petroleum.
Natural gas is a combustible gas stored underground, and its main component is methane. At present, natural gas has become one of the world’s main energy sources. It, together with oil, coal, water power and nuclear energy, constitute the five pillars of the world’s energy. In 1667, Britain became the first European country to use natural gas, more than 1,000 years later than my country. Throughout the 19th century, the application of natural gas was limited due to the lack of long-distance and large-scale transportation. With the development of pipeline technology (heating, heat preservation, pressurization, refrigeration and liquefaction), large-scale natural gas transmission systems have been put into use. Now large-scale gas transmission projects can pass through deserts, frozen soils, and seabeds, reaching thousands or even tens of thousands of kilometers. The oil economy has brought unprecedented prosperity to mankind. The 20th century is the fastest period of economic and technological development in human history. In 100 years, the world’s population has increased by four times, industrial production has increased by more than 50 times, but energy consumption has also increased by more than 100 times.
Since learning to collect natural fire and drill wood to make fire, in the next 3 million years, the use of energy by mankind has experienced the age of natural grass and wood, the age of charcoal, the age of coal, and the age of oil-gas. Carbon organic matter produces an exothermic chemical reaction (of which only wind energy and geothermal energy are used as a small supplement). It was not until the 1950s that mankind discovered that there were new and usable energy sources in nature. This is the renewable energy represented by solar energy. This discovery is closely related to petrochemical energy.