Crude Oil is seldom used for electricity, so why tinker with the supply chain?


Most of the worlds continuous uninterruptable electricity generation is by coal, natural gas, hydropower, and nuclear.

The primary usage of crude oil is for the manufacture of derivatives for thousands of products and fuels for transportation infrastructures. Tinkering with the supply chain of oil could impact the supply chain of thousands of products needed by current lifestyles and worldwide economies.

Of the 3 fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, it’s only coal and natural gas that are primarily used for the generation of continuous uninterruptible electricity.

  • Natural Gas is often used for generation of continuous uninterruptible electricity at extremely low emissions.
  • Coal is often used for generation of electricity, especially in poorer developing countries like China, India, and Africa where they need reliable, affordable, and abundant coal.

Crude oil is seldom used to generate electricity. When oil is used, three technologies are used to convert crude oil into electricity:

  • Conventional steam – Oil is burned to heat water to create steam to generate electricity.
  • Combustion turbine – Oil is burned under pressure to produce hot exhaust gases which spin a turbine to generate electricity.
  • Combined-cycle technology – Oil is first combusted in a combustion turbine, using the heated exhaust gases to generate electricity. After these exhaust gases are recovered, they heat water in a boiler, creating steam to drive a second turbine.

The primary usage of crude oil is for the manufacture of fuels for the many transportation infrastructures such as airlines, merchant ships, automobiles, trucks, military, the space program, and for the manufacturing of oil derivatives that are the basis of more than 6,000 products in our economy and lifestyles.

Case in point: Ridding America of Crude Oil will Eliminate the lubricants for Wind Turbines.

The average wind farm contains roughly 150 turbines. Each wind turbine needs 80 gallons of oil as lubricant, which is a PAO (polyalphaolefin) synthetic oil based on approximately 12,000 gallons of crude oil. The oil for each turbine needs to be replaced once a year.

Wind-turbine lubricants play a critical role in equipment operation, maintenance, and reliability of a wind farm. There are several lubrication points in a wind turbine, including gearbox, open gear, pitch gear, pitch bearing, rotor shaft, yaw bearing, yaw gear, hydraulic systems, and generator bearings. These points require various lubricants such as gear oils, hydraulic oils, and greases.

Gear oil is used in lubricating gearboxes; grease is used on the main rotor shaft bearing, yaw bearing, pitch drive gears, blade bearing and generator bearing. Hydraulic fluid is used in hydraulic systems for blade pitch control. Improper or insufficient lubrication can lead to significant maintenance and operations cost or equipment downtime.

It is estimated that 3,800+ turbines would be needed to power a city the size of New York. That’s over 304,000 gallons of refined oil for just one city.

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Ron Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.