A couple of our recent reports – discussing the long-term threats facing the oil industry – might have lead some readers to believe that the “end of oil” is nigh! So this month’s summer holiday themed report is aimed at those of you who are genuinely worried about the future of oil and need their minds putting at rest! For as we are about to discover, there is more to oil than moving people from a to b or keeping them warm…
OK, you’re off on your summer holidays (hurray!) and the first thing you are going to do when you arrive at your sun-baked destination is to get yourself an ice-cold beer straight from the chiller – a piece of equipment that relies on refrigerant gases including refined propane and butane. As for the beer itself, well that requires brewing yeast which is usually cultured on large agar plates and covered in refined mineral oil to prevent over-fermentation. OK. So far, so oil.
But what about the children? They were extremely well behaved on the flight over – colouring in their colouring books with their (base oil) crayons – and because of that, you rashly promised them that they could join the ICEDC (Ice Cream Every Day Club). So good to your word, on arrival you get some Mr Whippy style ice-creams. But categorically not before pointing out to the children that not only does a freezer use the same LPG refrigerant gases as the chiller, but that the trademark softness of the ice cream is in part, a result of the odourless and colourless petroleum gelatine that it contains.
Now let’s fast forward a few hours and you’re off to the beach. Make sure you have your plastic beach buckets, spades and inflatables (all containing about 20% mineral oil) and obviously don’t forget to apply the refined crude oil in the form of sun cream (15% content) to prevent sun-burn. But not to worry if you do get sun-burn, because (crude oil derived) after-sun cream is available at the local pharmacy. Along with 90% petroleum jelly (more usually known as Vaseline), insect repellent (mineral oil) and deodorant / anti-perspirants (naphtha) to make sure you avoid embarrassing sweat patches in the heat.
All of which seems to indicate that beach holidays tend to rely on oil somewhere along the line. But what about those people who prefer rain-soaked, midge-infested places for their holidays (wait…who in their right mind would do that!?)? Well if you must do that kind of holiday, then water-proofs are essential and we all know that refined oil is essential when it comes to water-proofing those water-proofs. It’s also essential for the bitumen lining that goes inside every walking boot. And if you are truly mad enough to enjoy camping in such damp climates (no seriously, surely nobody would do that…!?), then you’ll also be relying on that bitumen lining which is layered on the inside and outside of modern tents. As for those midges, well those little buggers will eat you alive whatever you do, but at least the mineral oil reliant midge cream should give you some respite – along with 4 or 5 drams of the local water.
Some of you will possibly enjoy active vacations and you too, will be doing your bit for the oil industry. Fishing rods, golf clubs (and balls), mountain bikes, wind-surfers and water skis are all made in greater or lesser parts from carbon fibre, which comes from petroleum pitch – a dark, bituminous product that comes out of the distillation process at the bottom end of the “barrel” (see our July 2014 report). Whilst life jackets, snorkel masks, wetsuits and flippers all contain mineral oil and synthetically produced rubber made from naphthenic liquids (top end of the barrel).
Whether we like it or not, the conclusion must be that oil’s future in the medium and (probably) long-term is assured – as long as we all want to keep going on holiday and living normal “modern lives”. In fact “manufacturing fuel” (used for making things) is probably under less threat than “transportation fuel”. The latter (petrol, diesel etc) is now greatly challenged by environmental legislation and the onset of electric cars. Manufacturing fuel on the other hand, looks likely to experience sustained growth, particularly as the Developing World becomes ever more focussed on consumer goods and lifestyle products. And environmentally speaking, this can be viewed in a positive light. Unlike transportation fuels – which generate double-emissions (once during the refining process and again during the combustion phase) – plastics and cosmetics generate emissions only once (in the manufacturing process) before becoming inert, non-combustible materials. A bit like those people who choose to go to rain-soaked, midge-infested places on holiday. Have a good one.