Our world is fueled by petroleum. Over the past hundred years, western civilization has become dependent on the use of gas and oil pulled out of the ground and refined for industrial use. What most people don’t know is exactly how petroleum forms and how we extract it for use.

While we’re still not completely sure how exactly petroleum forms, we know that it’s a fossil fuel derived from dead organic matter. Huge amounts of these remains settle at the bottom of seas and lakes; over time, hundreds of layers of this organic matter mix with the sediment and are buried under yet more layers.Confused? Here ‘s a little help . As the layers pile on, both the pressure and heat put on the mixture increase, changing the material into kerogen, a waxy material.

If the kerogen remains under even more heat and pressure, it liquefies in a process called catagenesis, and, in the absence of air, becomes first a substance called bitumen and then, finally, petroleum.

In order to extract usable petroleum, we must first locate an oil field. Instruments like gravimeters and magnetometers are useful for locating petroleum. Once a field is found, we begin drilling wells into the underground reservoir. The oil well is created with an oil rig, which drills a hole into the earth. A steel pipe is then placed into the hole to give it structure, after which a series of valves are installed to facilitate the flow of petroleum. The underground pressure of the reservoir pushes the petroleum through the valves, which lead it to a pipeline network of processing and storage.

The process of oil drilling and recovery is long, arduous, and a wonder of engineering; the end result, though, speaks for itself.