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Oil vs. Petroleum: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 27, 2023
Oil generally refers to any viscous liquid, including plant, animal, and synthetic varieties, while petroleum specifically denotes a natural, hydrocarbon-based oil extracted from the earth.
Oil vs. Petroleum

Key Differences

Oil is a broad term that encompasses a variety of liquids with high viscosity, derived from diverse sources such as plants, animals, or synthetic processes. Petroleum, on the other hand, specifically refers to a naturally occurring liquid found beneath the Earth's surface, formed from the fossilized remains of ancient organisms, primarily composed of hydrocarbons.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 27, 2023
Oils have a wide range of applications including cooking, lubrication, and as ingredients in products like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Petroleum is primarily used as a fuel source and a raw material in the petrochemical industry, where it is refined into gasoline, diesel, and other essential chemicals.
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Dec 27, 2023
The environmental considerations for oils vary widely depending on their source; plant-based oils are often renewable, whereas synthetic oils can have varying ecological footprints. Petroleum extraction and use, however, are closely associated with significant environmental concerns, including greenhouse gas emissions and oil spills.
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Dec 27, 2023
While many oils play critical roles in various industries, petroleum stands out due to its immense impact on the global economy. It is a major energy source and its availability and price significantly influence international markets and geopolitical strategies.
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Dec 27, 2023
The physical properties of oils can differ greatly; some are edible, like olive oil, while others, such as motor oil, are toxic. Petroleum is characterized by its density, viscosity, and the complexity of its hydrocarbon chains, which determine its suitability for different refinements and uses.
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Comparison Chart

XSource

Diverse, including plants, animals, synthetic
Natural, from fossilized organic material
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Main Constituents

Varies widely (fatty acids, hydrocarbons, etc.)
Primarily hydrocarbons
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Primary Uses

Cooking, lubrication, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals
Fuel, industrial feedstock
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Environmental Impact

Varies, renewable to polluting
Often associated with pollution and climate change
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Economic Role

Important in specific sectors
Central to global energy and economy
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Oil and Petroleum Definitions

Oil

A lubricant used in internal combustion engines.
Regularly changing the motor oil is crucial for engine maintenance.
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Petroleum

Quantities of crude oil stored for future use.
The country tapped into its petroleum reserves during the energy crisis.
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Oil

Concentrated extracts from plants, used for aromatherapy or flavoring.
Lavender oil is popular for its relaxing fragrance.
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Petroleum

Unrefined oil extracted from geological formations.
The refinery processes crude petroleum into gasoline.
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Oil

The process of painting with pigments bound in oil.
The artist chose oil paints for their rich texture and vibrant colors.
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Petroleum

Refined products like gasoline and diesel used for energy.
Rising petroleum prices affected the cost of travel.
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Oil

A plant or animal-derived fat used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking.
She used olive oil to sauté the vegetables.
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Petroleum

The sector involving the exploration, extraction, and processing of petroleum.
He works in the petroleum industry, focusing on sustainable practices.
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Oil

Any of numerous mineral, vegetable, or synthetic substances or animal or vegetable fats that are generally slippery, combustible, viscous, liquid or liquefiable at room temperatures, soluble in various organic solvents such as ether but not in water, and used in a great variety of products, especially lubricants and fuels.
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Petroleum

A byproduct of petroleum refining used as a skin protectant.
She applied petroleum jelly to her dry skin.
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Oil

Petroleum.
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Petroleum

A thick, flammable, yellow-to-black mixture of gaseous, liquid, and solid hydrocarbons that occurs naturally beneath the earth's surface, can be separated into fractions including natural gas, gasoline, naphtha, kerosene, fuel and lubricating oils, paraffin wax, and asphalt and is used as raw material for a wide variety of derivative products.
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Oil

A petroleum derivative, such as a machine oil or lubricant.
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Petroleum

A flammable liquid ranging in color from clear to very dark brown and black, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons, occurring naturally in deposits under the Earth's surface.
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Oil

A protective or cosmetic liquid applied to the skin or hair.
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Petroleum

Rock oil, mineral oil, or natural oil, a dark brown or greenish inflammable liquid, which, at certain points, exists in the upper strata of the earth, from whence it is pumped, or forced by pressure of the gas attending it. It consists of a complex mixture of various hydrocarbons, largely of the methane series, but may vary much in appearance, composition, and properties. It is refined by distillation, and the products include kerosene, benzine, gasoline, paraffin, etc.
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Oil

Oil paint.
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Petroleum

A dark oil consisting mainly of hydrocarbons
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Oil

A painting done in oil paint.
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Oil

To lubricate, supply, cover, or polish with oil.
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Oil

Liquid fat.
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Oil

Petroleum-based liquid used as fuel or lubricant.
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Oil

Petroleum
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Oil

(countable) An oil painting.
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Oil

(painting) Oil paint.
I prefer to paint in oil
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Oil

(attributive) Containing oil, conveying oil; intended for or capable of containing oil.
Oil barrel; oil pipe
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Oil

(transitive) To lubricate with oil.
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Oil

(transitive) To grease with oil for cooking.
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Oil

Any one of a great variety of unctuous combustible substances, more viscous than and not miscible with water; as, olive oil, whale oil, rock oil, etc. They are of animal, vegetable, or mineral origin and of varied composition, and they are variously used for food, for solvents, for anointing, lubrication, illumination, etc. By extension, any substance of an oily consistency; as, oil of vitriol.
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Oil

To smear or rub over with oil; to lubricate with oil; to anoint with oil.
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Oil

A slippery or viscous liquid or liquefiable substance not miscible with water
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Oil

Oil paint used by an artist
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Oil

Any of a group of liquid edible fats that are obtained from plants
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Oil

Cover with oil, as if by rubbing;
Oil the wooden surface
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Oil

Administer an oil or ointment to ; often in a religious ceremony of blessing
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Oil

Man-made lubricants designed to work in extreme conditions.
Synthetic oil is preferred for high-performance engines.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is petroleum?

Petroleum is a natural, hydrocarbon-based oil found underground, formed from decomposed organic materials.
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Dec 27, 2023

Are all oils made from petroleum?

No, oils can be derived from various sources, not just petroleum.
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Is petroleum renewable?

No, it is a non-renewable resource formed over millions of years.
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Can oils be synthetic?

Yes, there are synthetic oils created for specific industrial applications.
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Is the oil industry the same as the petroleum industry?

The oil industry is broader, encompassing all oil types, while the petroleum industry specifically deals with petroleum products.
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Are vegetable oils a type of petroleum?

No, vegetable oils are plant-derived and not related to petroleum.
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Dec 27, 2023

Are cooking oils and petroleum the same?

No, cooking oils are typically plant-based and not related to petroleum.
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Dec 27, 2023

What is oil?

Oil refers to any viscous liquid, including types derived from plants, animals, or made synthetically.
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Dec 27, 2023

Can petroleum be used directly after extraction?

No, it usually requires refining to be usable in different applications.
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Dec 27, 2023

Are oils biodegradable?

Many plant and animal-derived oils are biodegradable, but petroleum and synthetic oils are not.
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What is the main use of petroleum?

It is primarily used as a fuel and a raw material for chemicals.
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Is petroleum used in medicine?

Yes, derivatives like petroleum jelly are used in medical applications.
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Is petroleum harmful to the environment?

Its extraction and use can have significant environmental impacts.
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Is petroleum found in all countries?

No, it is located in specific geological formations.
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Is petroleum extraction always harmful to wildlife?

It can pose risks to wildlife, particularly in the case of spills and habitat disruption.
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What products are made from petroleum?

Fuels, plastics, synthetic materials, and more.
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Dec 27, 2023

Are oils renewable?

Some, like plant-based oils, are renewable, but petroleum is not.
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Can oils be used in cosmetics?

Yes, various oils are used in cosmetic products.
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Can oil be used as fuel?

Certain oils, like petroleum, are used as fuel, but not all oils are suitable for this.
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Do all oils have the same viscosity?

No, viscosity varies widely among different types of oils.
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Dec 27, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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