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What is Fuel Oil?

Crude oil is separated into products like fuel oil, gasoline, and kerosene in cracking towers at oil refineries.
Fuel oil is refined from light oils that have been extracted from underground wells.
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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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Fuel oil is a lighter type of oil, or a liquid byproduct of crude oil, which is used for energy, especially for heating. When petroleum is refined, there are two main categories under which it is classified: distillate oils, including diesel, and residual oils, which include things like kerosene. There are different types of fuel oils in each category. The distillate type is generally used for home heating.

While gasoline is also a byproduct of the petroleum refining process, it is far less stable than the fuel oil used to heat homes and commercial properties. Even so, the rise and fall of gas prices is generally a good indicator of the stability, or lack thereof, of other oil prices. Since the price of crude oil directly affects the price of oil used for fuel, consumers should be prepared to pay more to heat their homes as the worldwide demand for oil and gas continues to increase.

The costs of refining must also be figured in to the price, as must the costs of transporting and distributing it. When the price of crude oil rises, gas prices go up, so the price of transporting fuel oil does as well. This may be felt even more by families that live in rural locations, requiring longer trips to transport and distribute the oil.

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Seasonal issues tend to play a role in the price of fuel oil as well. During periods when the demand for gasoline is high, refining companies process less oil for heating. This means that, when the demand for home heating oil increases, so will the price because the supply is limited. This fact often causes the price to rise quickly and sharply.

In the U.S., much of the oil that is consumed, including heating oil, comes from foreign sources. Some of the refining is done in the domestically, but the rest is refined in other countries such as Canada or Venezuela, which may also affect the price.

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Discuss this Article

anon280651
Post 6

I want to know difference between heavy nalphta and light nalphta. What is lean oil?

anon275256
Post 5

I have a 275 fuel oil tank with about 10 gallons of no. 2 fuel in it. If I add diesel fuel to it will it change the color and then I can use it in my cummins diesel engine?

anon111367
Post 4

Colonists and tractors? The story sounds bogus. Although the method may work, the misplaced historical reference detracts.

ValleyFiah
Post 3

@ Parmnparsley- The kerosene fuel oil in your furnace is almost identical to the diesel fuel oil in your tractor or car. Diesel fuel oil usually has additives that reduce sulfur and change the color. Besides those two differences, the fuels are the same.

The legality for using fuel oil or kerosene varies by locale, but here are a few guidelines. Kerosene is for off-road and non-commercial use. If you are using your tractor around home, it should be perfectly legal, but if you use your tractor for business, you will probably be fined if you are caught (this is why they add chemicals to change the color of kerosene). The costs of the two fuels are different because diesel has the road tax added to the cost, and reducing sulfur is an extra expense during the refining process.

parmnparsley
Post 2

@ Submariner- Interesting way to make fuel oil. I have a question for anyone out there. What is the difference between diesel and kerosene fuel oil? I have heard the two are exactly the same, so I was wondering if it would work in my tractor. I only ask because kerosene is much cheaper than diesel where I live.

submariner
Post 1

I have been watching an interesting show called the colony about a group of people forced to rebuild after a disaster. One of the main tasks in every season is finding a source of liquid fuel to sustain the colony in the short-term.

Anyway, I learned an interesting way to make biodiesel out of rotten pig carcasses. The colonists found three dead pigs and stripped the fat off the carcasses. After separating the fat, they put it in a large bathtub and lit a small fire underneath the tub. The colonists slowly rendered the pig fat over the flame until most of the oil was separated from the tissue. The colonists strained the fat, and poured it into the fuel oil tank of an old tractor. It worked like a charm, and they were able to use the tractor to run their tools. I could only hope I would be as resourceful in a similar situation.

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