50 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Oil

By InvestingAnswers Staff
May 05, 2011

Thought you knew everything about oil? Here are 50 surprising facts and startling statistics that will improve your knowledge of this versatile commodity.

1. The word "petroleum" literally translates as "rock oil." It stems from the Greek word "petra," meaning rock, and the Latin word "oleum," meaning oil.

2. Crude oil is considered the "mother of all commodities" because of its use in the manufacturing of numerous products, including gasoline, synthetic fabrics, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

3. Approximately 50% of all the oil consumed in the U.S. is for the transportation industry.

4. The states of Texas, Louisiana and California account for over half of all domestic refining capacity.

5. Texas is the leading state in crude oil production with over 5 billion barrels in reserves.

6. Federal off-shore drilling areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California produce about a quarter of all domestic crude-oil production.

7. Crude oil is measured in barrels, which are each equivalent to 42 U.S. gallons. 

8. One barrel of oil accounts for about 19.15 gallons of gasoline, 9.21 gallons of diesel, 3.82 gallons of jet fuel, 1.75 gallons of heating oil and about 7.3 gallons for other petrochemical products like tar, asphalt, bitumen, etc.

9. Products like fertilizers, plastics, car tires, ammonia, perfumes and even bubble gum are synthesized using petroleum products obtained during the crude oil refining process.

10. Crude oil ranges in consistency from water to a nearly solid state.

11. New York has the lowest per-capita energy consumption of any state.

12. Cushing, Oklahoma, is the designated delivery point for NYMEX crude oil futures contracts.

13. In 2009, the United States imported about 51% of the petroleum it consumed during that year.

14. OPEC countries hold over three-quarters of the world’s proven oil reserves, and that number is rising.

15. The U.S. has over 200,000 miles of oil pipelines within its borders.

16. Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oil field contains about 85 billion barrels of oil (the world’s largest).

17. Oil is created from the decomposition of organic materials under intense heat and pressure over millions of years.

18. The largest oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, spilled 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

19. According to a major study, about 80% of all oil spills are caused by human error.

20. Oil has been used by people for over 5,000 years, once used as a medicine for treating ailments such as gout and frostbite.

21. Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer today and has the largest amount of reserves (267 billion barrels).

22. The U.S. is the biggest consumer of oil at over 19.5 million barrels a day.

23. Thanks to large amounts of oil reserves and government subsidies, as of December 2010, the average price of gas in Caracas, Venezuela is 12 cents per U.S. gallon.

24. The U.S. has the 11th largest national oil reserves in the world at 21 billion barrels.

25. The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the world’s oil.

26. Oil consumed in the U.S. by driving is nearly two times that consumed by drivers in China and India combined.

27. Saudi Arabia produces 8.1 million barrels of oil per day.

28. Oil spills account for only about 5% of the oil entering the oceans. The Coast Guard estimates that for U.S. waters, sewage treatment plants discharge twice as much oil each year as tanker spills.

29. Oil was first successfully drilled in the U.S. in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859.

30. Crude oil was first pumped from the ground in Sichuan, China 2,500 years ago.

31. The first offshore wells were off the coast of Louisiana during the 1950s.

32. The Texas Oil Boom and the modern industrialization of oil production in the U.S. began with a major gusher at Spindletop on January 10th, 1901 near Beaumont, Texas.

33. Glycerin -- a sweet-tasting synthetic ingredient used in toothpaste and other products -- is a petrochemical derived from oil.

34. Oil is used to make common synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, vinyl and acrylic.

35. The U.S. oil production is about 5.36 million barrels a day.

36. The U.S. imports about 9.01 million barrels a day.

37. Canada actually supplies the most crude oil to the U.S. (1.9 million barrels per day).

38. 378 million gallons of gas are consumed in the U.S. every day.

39. The ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas, is the largest-capacity refinery in the U.S. (560,640 barrels a day).

40. Total daily oil production around the world is 84,365,ai barrels a day

41. Total daily oil consumption around the world is 84,249,000 barrels/day.

42. The U.S. has 21 billion barrels in current oil reserves, which is enough to last eight years at current consumption levels.

43. In 2006, the EPA mandated that diesel fuel refiners had to reduce the sulfur content of their fuel by 97% because sulfur gas compounds are a major source of ai pollution.

44. Diesel fuel produced about 11% more energy than an equal volume of gasoline and actually produces slightly less carbon dioxide emissions.

45. Most of the oil found in the ocean has oozed naturally from the ocean floor.

46. John D. Rockefeller, who revolutionized and dominated the oil industry in the late 19th and early 20th century, had a net worth measuring $1.4 trillion (today’s dollars) at the time of his death.

47. After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. was forced to use 11 million barrels of its reserves because of the damage to the Gulf Coast.

48. The largest oil field in the U.S. is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, which covers 213,453 acres and originally contained 25 billion barrels of oil.

49. Canada has the third largest amount of reserves of any country, 97% of which are in oil sands.

50. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline has shipped over 16 billion barrels of oil since it came online in 1977.

For more information on investing in oil and other commodities, see our InvestingAnswers featureThe Absolute Worst Way to Invest in Commodities.