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What is oil?

Oil is the remains of ancient plants and animals, compressed deep in the earth into liquid strings of hydrogen and carbon. Ancient Greeks gave it the name petroleum, from the Greek "petra" meaning rock, and "oleum" meaning oil.

The modern history of oil began in the 1840s, when a Canadian geologist discovered that crude oil could be distilled into kerosene to light lanterns. In fact, the heating oil industry may have begun with Petro, when M.A. Fessler invented the oil burner to take advantage of the crude oil discoveries in California. The company he founded, Fess System Co., eventually became Petro.

How oil heats a home
Oil makes a long journey from deep in the earth to the tank in your home. It begins when crude oil is turned into a series of products, including gasoline, jet fuel, and heating oil. Oil is extremely stable, and must be heated above 140 degrees before it will begin to burn. Inside your furnace or boiler, your oil burns extremely hot – 400 degrees hotter than natural gas or propane – and is extremely efficient in heating your home!

The oil industry today
More than 3/4 of oil in the U.S. now comes from outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and our supplies often arrive from Canada, Mexico or Venezuela. As the country's leading supplier of home heating oil, our resources are unmatched and we've never run out of oil.

Related articles

Click on the links below to find additional insights and information:

Oil heat - what you need to know ›

How your oil-fired heating system works ›

The facts about oil vs. gas heating ›


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