Petroleum ("oil") and natural gas form from tiny plants and algae that settled in seas or lakes millions of years ago. This organic material reacts under heat and pressure to form oil and/or gas. Petroleum products include gasoline, heating oil, propane, and kerosene. Not to be confused with gasoline, natural gas is mostly methane — a clear, odorless gas. When burned, oil and gas release abundant energy as well as carbon dioxide and water.
Why do oil and gas matter?
Petroleum and natural gas are the largest energy sources for the United States. In 2016, 92% of transportation fuel came from petroleum, while 34% of electric power and the majority of non-electric commercial/residential energy came from natural gas.[3,4] The United States has large oil and natural gas resources. Unconventional oil and gas resources, like shale gas and tight oil, are now accessible with the combination of the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How does geoscience help inform decisions about oil and gas resources?
Geoscientists use geophysics and geophysical techniques to find rock layers that contain oil or gas, and determine how much these rock layers might produce. Geoscientists also work to reduce the environmental impacts of oil and gas extraction.
1Oil and Petroleum Explained, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=oil_home
2Energy Use for Transportation, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=us_energy_transportation
3Electricity in the United States, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states
4Use of Natural Gas, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=natural_gas_use
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