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[Energy] [Column] All About Petroleum - (4) Petroleum Pervading Every Corner of Our Lives

by Eco Generation | 09-07-2019 10:46 Comments 5 recommendations 0

Petroleum Pervading Every Corner of Our Lives



By Science Columnist Ho-Gwan Ko



When the sun rises, you wake up and start your day. You feel thirsty, and take out cold water from the refrigerator and drink a cup of water. You take off your clothes in the bathroom and take a shower. You wash your hair with shampoo and your body with a body cleanser. You dry your wet hair with a dryer and comb neatly with a comb. After breakfast, you put toothpaste on your toothbrush and brush your teeth. You rinse your mouth with water using a cup and put on your outfit.   


At most about one hour has passed. Surprisingly, many of the things we have touched and used are made from petroleum. Many parts of the refrigerator, water bottles, shampoo and body cleanser containers, the body of the dryer, combs, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, bathroom cups and so on. There are more: the body of the alarm clock that wakes you up, the flooring in the room, and the fibers used to make your clothes are highly likely to have come from petroleum.       


These petroleum chemicals are made from naphtha obtained from refining crude oil. Naphtha can be used for making gasoline or general products such as lighter fuel as well as be decomposed to obtain petroleum chemical products including ethylene, propylene, butane, and butylene.      


Ethylene is used to make polyethylene and polystyrene. Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic that most plastic products we use are made with. It is weak against heat, but flexible and impact-resistant. Depending on the density, it can be very soft or hard. Low-density polyethylene is used for plastic bags, wraps, and tubes, while high-density polyethylene is used for various containers, toys, and pipes. Even inside a disposable paper cup, polyethylene is coated to prevent the paper from getting wet. Polyethylene with its excellent performance is lightweight and durable enough to be used for making artificial joints.      


Polystyrene is also widely used for daily life goods such as TVs, toys, and yogurt containers. Often used as packaging material or insulation, Styrofoam is also plastic (polystyrene). As Styrofoam is actually a trademarked name, it is correct to call styrofoam polystyrene. Polystyrene consists of a lot of empty space inside, so air takes up most of the volume.      


With propylene, polypropylene, which is widely used in electronics, automobiles, and food containers is made. As polypropylene is more heat resistant than polyethylene, food containers made from polypropylene can be used in microwave ovens. If you want to heat cold food in a microwave, check if the container says PP (polypropylene).  


The list of types of plastic is too long to introduce all of them here. Because of its solid nature, polycarbonate is used in airplanes, trains, ship windows, transparent covers of buildings, smart phones, laptops, bulletproof glasses, and so on. As it can be made transparent, glasses, sunglasses, helmets, and CDs are also made with this plastic.      


In addition, there are many kinds of plastic and the range of use is very broad. There are special-purpose plastics that are rarely seen in our everyday lives. Such plastics are used for satellites or space ships. Without petroleum, there would have been no plastic, and the world we live in would have been incredibly different.      


It is impossible to stress the importance of plastics enough, and the useful products made from petroleum are not limited to plastics. Butane and butylene obtained by decomposing naphtha are raw materials for synthetic rubber. Before inventing synthetic rubber, people had no choice but to use only natural rubber extracted from rubber trees. Since Charles Goodyear of the United States improved the properties of rubber in the mid-19th century, the use of rubber has begun to increase. However, natural rubber was not enough to fulfill increasing demand, and synthetic rubber was invented. Today, most people use synthetic rubber made from petroleum. Shoes, automobile tires, cushioning materials, and many other products are made of rubber.      


Much of our clothing also comes from petroleum. Synthetic fibers, which started to emerge with the introduction of nylon in the 1930s, began to be used in clothes for various functions. Thanks to functional fibers that are lightweight and warm and quickly release sweat, these days, we are able to live a much better life than before.      


Let's look at a more new and interesting case. The agricultural products we eat every day also benefit from petroleum. Chemical fertilizers used to grow agricultural crops are also made with petroleum chemicals. The same goes for pesticides that eliminate pests.      


Medicines that save people's lives and products used for medical treatment are difficult to make without petroleum. For example, amino acids and vitamins used as raw materials for medicines and health foods can also be synthesized from substances derived from petroleum. Vaseline, which is often used for protecting skin and lips at home, is also made with components extracted from petroleum. Vaseline is a product name, and it is also called “petroleum jelly” in English. Furthermore, thanks to cheap plastics, we can produce a high volume of disposable syringes.       


Petroleum is not just about making life convenient. It protects people's lives, keeps them healthy, and maintains civilization. It is no exaggeration to say that petroleum is supporting modern civilization.  



[Column] All About Petroleum - (4) Petroleum Pervading Every Corner of Our Lives


  • Rachu Khanal says :
    Thanks for this great article
    Posted 31-03-2020 07:52

Sanjay Poudel

  • Sanjay Poudel says :
    Good...keep it...up...thank you very much
    Posted 14-03-2020 00:41

Vazira Ikhtiyorova

  • Vazira Ikhtiyorova says :
    Wooow! I really didn't know it! Thank you so much!
    Posted 06-02-2020 08:37

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Thanks for the new article Tunza EcoGeneration
    I am really excited to read new articles.
    Looking forward for the new article next week.
    Posted 10-07-2019 21:59

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