Readingtime 2 minutes

Petroleum is more than just an energy carrier —it’s also a raw material. It serves as a fuel and lubricant for cars, trucks, and aircraft, as a fuel for generating heat and power, and as a raw material for the chemical industry, which turns it into plastics, medicines, fertilizers, construction materials, detergents, cleaning agents, paints, and coatings.


1. Saudi-Arabia 13,5 %
589.1  million metric tons
2. Russian Federation 12,5 %
547.5  million metric tons
3. USA 12,4 %
543  million metric tons
+ 3,6 % growth due to production from unconventional sources (e. g. fracking) since 2009
4. Iraq 5 %
218.9  million metric tons
5. Canada 5 %
218.2 million metric tons
6. Iran 4,9 %
216.4  million metric tons
7. China 4,6 %
199.7  million metric tons
8. United Arab Emirates 4,2 %
182.4  million metric tons
9. Kuwait 3,5 %
152.7  million metric tons
10. Venezuela 3,1 %
134.2  million metric tons
Other Countries 31,3 %
1.372.2 million metric tons
(of which Germany 2.4 million metric tons)

Source: BGR – Energiestudie 2017

Processing of Crude Oil in Refineries

Processing of Crude Oil in Refineries

Processing of Crude Oil in Refineries

In a refinery, crude oil is broken down into its various components in distillation columns. In the subsequent cracking process, the heavy components, which are long-chain hydrocarbons, are broken up into shorter-chain molecules. This is necessary because the market demands more short-chain hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel, light heating oil) than crude oil contains, whereas long-chain hydrocarbons (heavy heating oil) are being used less and less often. The cracking process generates alkanes and alkenes, which the chemical industry uses as raw materials.

Source: Association of the German Petroleum Industry

Elemental Composition of Crude Oil

Source: G. James Speight: The Chemistry and Technology of Petroleum

Refinery Capacities (in thousand of metric tons/day)

In Europe, the refinery capacities — i. e. the quantities of crude oil in thousands of metric tons that refineries can process in one day — have remained constant, or even fallen, since 1990. During this period they increased worldwide.
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017

Illustration: KNSKB+


11TH July 2018


High-tech plastics

Less CO₂ in natural gas

High-tech membranes help to exploit natural gas fields with a high CO₂ content.


Hydrogen peroxide

Peroxide Power

Hydrogen peroxide has long powered innovative applications in chemistry—now it’s also an environmentally friendly propellant for rockets.


The new formula C4

Absolutely unique: Evonik is using an award-winning purification process to make the refinery byproduct FCC-C4 a useful raw material.

In my element

“My fate depends on hydrogen”

Kurt Frieden likes to get carried away through the air by hydrogen – the lightest element on earth.

ELEMENTS Newsletter
Get fascinating insights into the research Evonik is conducting, and its social relevance, by subscribing to our free newsletter.