What Is British Petroleum?

Petroleum is a mix of different hydrocarbons, or asphaltenes. Each petroleum variety has a unique mix of molecules, which define its physical and chemical properties. The alkanes, also known as paraffins, are saturated hydrocarbons with straight or branched chains which contain only carbon and hydrogen. They usually have from 5 to 40 carbon atoms per molecule. Alkanes with 16 carbon atoms or more can be made into fuel oil and lubricating oil. The molecules with four or less carbon atoms are in what is called gaseous state at room temperature. These molecules are the petroleum gases. Depending on demand and the cost of recovery, these gases are either flared off, sold as liquified petroleum gas under pressure, or used to power the refinery's own burners. During the winter, butane (C4H10), is blended into the petrol pool at high rates, because its high vapor pressure assists with cold starts. Liquified under pressure slightly above atmospheric, it is best known for powering cigarette lighters, but it is also a main fuel source for many developing countries. Propane can be liquified under modest pressure, and is consumed for just about every application relying on petroleum for energy, from cooking to heating to transportation.
The cycloalkanes, also known as naphthenes, are saturated hydrocarbons which have one or more carbon rings to which hydrogen atoms are attached according to the formula CnH2n. Cycloalkanes have similar properties to alkanes but have higher boiling points.
The aromatic hydrocarbons are unsaturated hydrocarbons which have one or more planar six-carbon rings called benzene rings, to which hydrogen atoms are attached with the formula CnHn. They tend to burn with a sooty flame, and many have a sweet aroma. Some are carcinogenic.
These different molecules are separated by fractional distillation at an oil refinery to produce petrol, jet fuel, kerosene, and other hydrocarbons. For example, 2,2,4-trimethylpentane (isooctane), widely used in petrol,...