Oil FAQs

What is oil?

Oil is mostly made up of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and is considered a fossil fuel. While it is still not completely known where oil originated from, most scientists agree that it is the product of prehistoric organisms from millions of years ago. The remains of these organisms are thought to have settled at the bottoms of oceans and lakes, where sediment and sand covered them causing a buildup in pressure. In combination with an increase in heat, the pressure increase caused the chemical composition to change the remains into oil.

What is a nonrenewable resource?

Oil is considered a nonrenewable resource. This means that there is a finite supply of oil in the earth.

Where does oil come from?

Oil is removed from the earth by drilling deep wells into underground pools of oil. The oil is pumped to the surface as crude oil, and is taken to oil refineries. At the refineries, impurities such as sulfur, nitrogen, and metals are removed to create products like gasoline, kerosene, propane, distillates, and residuals.

What is oil used for?

Oil has a variety of uses, including for transportation, heating homes, and for generating electricity in some power plants. Oil is also used to create byproducts such as lubricants, waxes, tars, asphalts, and is used in the creation of many pesticides and fertilizers.

Why is oil needed as a lubricant?

Oil is often used as a lubricant for machinery and automotive engines. These systems require many moving parts to work properly, and the oil works as a buffer between the moving pieces to reduce friction, minimize wear, and to assist in cooling. It can also absorb shock loads, and, in some cases, act as a cleaning agent. Without oil, the engine or equipment would fall apart or stop working much more quickly, seize, and potentially overheat, resulting in costly equipment breakdowns and downtime.

Where does oil pressure come from?

In the engine of the vehicle, the oil pump creates enough pressure to pump oil from the sump to the oil filter and into the engine. As the speed of the vehicle increases, so does the amount of oil delivered to the engine, and the inlet check valve prevents oil from draining back to the sump. This increase of oil being pumped to the engine can cause a buildup of oil pressure.

What regulates the pressure?

To ensure that there is not too much pressure, the engine also has a pressure relief valve. The pressure relief valve allows just enough oil to return to the sump to prevent excess oil pressure.

What can happen if there is too much pressure?

If there is too much pressure due to a valve that is stuck closed, you may experience a ballooned oil filter, a blown seal, burst filter housings, damaged heat exchange cores, and other issues.

What about too little pressure?

If the valve becomes stuck open and releases too much oil, the result can be too little oil pressure. Just as too much oil pressure can be a problem, too little oil pressure can result in not enough oil being sent to the engine. This can cause an engine seizure, premature wear of engine parts, overheating, and other problems.