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How fossil fuels
move the world Crude Oil

Oil, gas and gas condensate are among the most important energy sources in the world. One thing we know for sure is that we need oil - currently around 90 million barrels of crude oil a day. Oil is used for many other purposes other than fuel for energy or transport. And yet we are constantly hearing new and often conflicting forecasts about the potential reserves and resources.

What is the future for fossil fuels? The end of oil and gas production is not yet in sight. But what we do already know is that the reservoirs will be depleted at some point - after all, as far as oil is concerned, we are consuming four times the amount of oil that we are discovering in new reservoirs. Hence, the resources have to be used sensibly. For this reason, oil heating is gradually being replaced by other energy sources. On the other hand, it will remain crucial as a raw material for the chemical industry.

The industrialized countries will need intelligent strategies in future for managing these valuable resources.

Brent determines the oil price in Europe

Prices for crude oil are based on the rates on the international oil bourses New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), ICE Futures in London (formerly International Petroleum Exchange), Rotterdam (ARA), Chicago (CBoT), Shanghai (SHFE), and the Singapore Exchange (SGX). In Europe, the most important type of crude is Brent. The historical oil price trend is characterized by strong fluctuations with the exception of what is known as the Golden Age of cheap oil - between World War I and the 1973 oil crisis.

2006-2016 Oil price development per Barrel BRENT

What types of oil exist?

As an unrefined natural product, oil consists of more than 17,000 components. It can be classified as extra heavy oil and bitumen, heavy oil, light oil, and condensate. API gravity is the unit generally used to classify crude oil. It is used throughout the world for characterization and as a quality standard for crude oil.

Light oil has to be recovered from heavy oil. Only then can end products such as diesel, gasoline, and petroleum be produced. Most demand is for the light, low-sulfur oil grades.

* API stands for American Petroleum Institute.

Resources and Potentials

Reserves are proven quantities of natural resources for energy that can be recovered at current prices and with current technologies.

Resources are proven quantities that cannot at present be recovered technically or economically. If reserves and resources are added together, this is known as remaining potential.
Total potential equals the sum of production and reserves, plus resources.

Source: BGR

Elements of oil

Unrefined petroleum - so called crude oil - is a natural product made of countless organic substances that occur naturally on the planet. In addition to the pure hydrocarbons, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur are important elements of crude oil. In the petrochemical industry they differentiate between two types of light oil with low sulfur content, such as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent oil, the North Sea oil. Examples of heavy oils are Mars and Poseidon.

Three questions to Thilo Wieland Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Exploration & Production in Russia, North Africa and South America - former Strategy expert


As a natural resource, oil is too valuable to use as a heating fuel.

Thilo Wieland
Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Exploration & Production in Russia, North Africa and South America

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Worldwide, one-fifth of oil consumed is used for heating.


Almost 90 percent of chemical products are based on oil, especially plastics. Polyethylene is the basis for iPads, cling film, and butter dishes. CDs and DVDs are made from polycarbonate, a transparent plastic.


Oil products continue to drive the world. Few cars, aircraft, or ships could move without the fossil fuel in their tank.

The hydrocarbon molecule methane CH4

Oil is made up of up to 17,000 components. But carbon and hydrogen account for the biggest shares. It can be seen here in the form of the methane molecule (CH4). Methane is composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. The individual molecules are very small and have a low power of attraction.

Since the bonds between the carbon atom and the four hydrogen atoms repel each other, the molecule is arranged spatially. The colorless and odorless gas is combustible, like all hydrocarbons. One advantage of methane combustion is that there is little soot formation.

When combusted, a large amount of energy is released, which is used to heat homes or as a fuel for cars, amongst other things.

More energy for the world

Global energy demand will rise by more than a third by 2035 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). India, China and the Middle East are responsible for 60 percent of this rise. Renewable energies are overtaking nuclear energy. But fossil fuels will still dominate the energy mix 20 years from now. In particular, the share of natural gas in the energy mix is becoming increasingly important.

Find out more about gas and condensate on the following pages.

Natural Gas