As most of us know, oil comes from beneath the ground. It is made of dead animal and plant matter, buried deep under layers of sedimentary rock. Pressure and heat cause oil deposits to form over long periods of time. But what is oil at its most basic? Oil is a complex mixture of molecular compounds. A molecule is the smallest unit of a substance that retains the substance’s characteristics. Molecules, in turn, are composed of atoms. There are only 90 naturally occurring types of atoms on earth; these form the basis of the innumerable types of molecules found in nature.
Sound interesting? Want to know more? Vicki Loe with OR&R chemist Robert Jones have posted information about oil and the importance it plays in our lives in an article on the NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration blog. The blog gives “an inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution.”