We use crude oil in lots of different ways. Its primary uses are to generate power, provide heating, and make fuel for our cars. But what are the pros and cons of oil? This article takes a closer look at the different advantages and disadvantages of crude oil.
Pros of Oil
Let’s start by looking at some of the advantages crude oil has.
1. Crude Oil is Readily Available
Although crude oil is a finite resource, it is still readily available. It is one of the most used forms of energy along with coal and natural gas. There exists a global infrastructure supporting oil extraction, transportation, and refining. Because oil is so readily available, it is a cheap solution in helping to meet global energy requirements.
2. Oil Has Lots of Uses
Oil is highly versatile and has lots of different uses. We can use it in an oil power plant to generate electricity. Refined oil can be used to make gasoline and diesel fuel for use in transportation. Oil is even found in everything from asphalt, through to plastics and synthetic materials such as clothes.
Whilst solar and wind energy are helping to reduce our dependency on oil, we are likely to always need it in one way or another.
3. It Has a High Energy Density
Crude oil has one of the highest energy densities of all fossil fuels. It can provide around 41 MJ/kg, which is more than coal (at between 26 and 33 MJ/kg.) This means you get a lot of energy of the amount of oil you consume, making it one of the most efficient energy resources available to us.
4. Crude Oil Can Be Stored Easily
Once extracted from the ground, we can store oil in barrels or tanks. This allows us to keep reserves of oil readily available. We can then use the oil as and when it is needed.
Most renewable energy sources don’t have this luxury. We cannot store the wind, nor the sunshine, we can only use it whilst it is available. Wind turbines, therefore, can only generate power when there is adequate wind. Similarly, solar panels only work in daylight. Although we can use batteries to store renewable power for later use, this is an expensive option.
5. Oil Energy Can Be Constant
Because we can store oil, it can be used as a constant supply of energy. Oil power plants can be fed by large tanks or pipelines. These can provide a constant supply of oil for the uninterrupted operation of the plant. As we touched on previously, wind turbines only work in the wind and solar panels only work in daylight.
6. The Oil Industry Creates Jobs
The oil and gas industry of the United States employed 880,681 people in 2018. This is according to a report by the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association. This is a significant number of jobs for just one country. You can only imagine how this would add up on a global scale.
Cons of Oil
Let’s now take a look at some of the disadvantages of oil.
1. Oil Energy Produces Toxic Gases
The use of oil in energy production results in the release of various gases. These can include carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Some of these can be toxic to our health and the health of our planet. Oil energy also produces greenhouse gases which contribute towards climate change. This is one of the major cons of oil energy.
2. Oil Leaks Are Possible
The drilling and transportation of oil is a risky business. During drilling, there is the potential for oil leaks. This can cause land pollution around oil derricks and oil slicks from rigs out at sea.
Transporting oil brings with it even more risks. Modern supertankers are capable of transporting over 2 million barrels of oil in one go. When oil tankers are breached, large oil slicks can form. These can cause serious damage to marine life, wildlife, and nearby coastal areas.
3. Drilling For Oil Is Dangerous
Working on oil rigs is a dangerous profession. In fact, working in an oilfield is one of the most dangerous jobs you can do. There are a whole host of dangers associated with the extraction of oil.
Most of us will remember the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. This not only resulted in the largest marine oil spill in history but also saw the loss of 11 lives. A further 17 people were injured. Whilst events like this are uncommon, injury and death is a regular occurrence amongst oil workers.
4. Oil Is Nonrenewable
Crude oil is a nonrenewable resource, meaning it will one day run out. It is formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals. This process can take tens of millions of years to complete.
The fact we cannot replenish crude oil in a short space of time is a major drawback. This is where renewable resources have a key advantage over fossil fuels. They can be used again and again without becoming depleted.
5. It Can Cause Conflict
Because oil is such a valuable commodity, it can cause conflict between different countries. This can be where any two countries lay claim to the same oil field. In some cases, this can even lead to war.
It can also cause disputes between oil companies and local communities where it is found. This can be due to environmental factors, access issues, and even ownership rights. Laying claim to an oil field is a process that often involves legal disputes.
6. Oil Exploration Takes Time
Finding oil can take a long time. Exploration companies can spend millions of dollars searching for oil. However, when they do strike oil, they stand to make a considerable profit from it.
So there we have the pros and cons of oil as a source of energy. It is clear to see how crude oil is the ultimate fossil fuel. This ‘black gold’ has a wide variety of uses. It is readily available and supports a global industry of oil professionals.
Of course, there are several important disadvantages when it comes to oil. It is bad for our environment and can contribute to climate change. Whatsmore, oil is a finite resource and won’t be around forever.
Whether you support the use of oil or are against it, the disadvantages are a compelling reason for us to make use of more renewable energy sources. Renewables are a far more attractive option in helping to meet our future energy requirements.