Petroleum (L. petroleum, from Latin: 'petra' (rock) + Latin: oleum (oil)) or crude oil is a naturally occurring flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. A fossil fuel, it is formed when large quantities of dead organisms, usually zooplankton and algae, are buried underneath sedimentary rock and undergo intense heat and pressure.
Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling. This comes after the studies of structural geology (at the reservoir scale), sedimentary basin analysis, reservoir characterization (mainly in terms of porosity and permeable structures). It is refined and separated, most easily by boiling point, into a large number of consumer products, from petrol (or gasoline) and kerosene to asphalt and chemical reagents used to make plastics and pharmaceuticals. Petroleum is used in manufacturing a wide variety of materials, and it is estimated that the world consumes about 88 million barrels each day.
The use of fossil fuels such as petroleum can have a negative impact on Earth's biosphere, releasing pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air and damaging ecosystems through events such as oil spills. Concern over the depletion of the earth's finite reserves of oil, and the effect this would have on a society dependent on it, is a field known as peak oil.
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