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Hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) were formed millions of years ago and are at great depth in the earth. They are given this name for their molecular composition (hydrogen and carbon) and are the most demanded non-renewable energy sources in the world. Their use was first documented in China in the 4th century BC, although their commercial exploitation, as we know it today, started in the 19th century.

It is a type of energy that is found in Nature in different amounts. Despite the fact that its origin is natural, the emissions derived from its use – especially those from the combustion of oil products – mean that they are not considered clean energy sources.

Fossil fuels and their derivatives are the main sources of energy, both for vehicles and for heating and the production of electricity. However, their combustion creates environmental problems, the main one being the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2), although sulphur and nitrogen oxides have a strong polluting capacity.

Hydrocarbons advantages


  • In general, current technology means it is easy to extract.
  • It is a source of energy that can be accessed on a continuous basis.
  • Las gasolinas y gasóleos son accesibles por doquier para el transporte.
  • Gasoline (petrol, UK) and diesel are available everywhere for transport Many of the products we use every day are oil-based (plastics, cables, polymers, fertilizers, fabrics, footwear, etc.).
  • Reserves are enormous, it is an abundant energy source.


  • Emission of polluting gases to the atmosphere.
  • Reserves. The enormous amount of reserves is much greater than the planet’s ability to absorb the emissions.
  • Burning oil avoids the option of manufacturing other goods. Opportunity cost: instead of using it as fuel, it could be used to produce goods.
  • It is an energy important from other countries. There is great dependence on this resource.
  • Its prices change. The instability is considerable and this leads to imbalances in the economy and in society.

Hydrocarbon energy in Euskadi

The Energy Strategy for Euskadi sets out ambitious objectives in order to gradually disconnect energy from oil. To do this, the progressive replacement of gasoline and diesel is planned through alternative, cleaner energies that will enable us to achieve renewable production that can supply the energy needs of our region in the industrial, domestic and transport fields.

Valorisation of the resource

As well as its use in engines, hydrocarbons are a first-level raw material for producing items of great value and daily use such as plastics, garments or medications, objects without which we would find it hard to explain modern-day living.


The main material made from oil products is plastic. It is used for an enormous range of products: toys, food and drink packaging, cases for mobile phones and household appliances, PVC piping, etc. It is also used in the production of detergents and cleaning products; furniture and clothes of synthetic fibres, insulation, paints, etc.

Healthcare materials

A large number of healthcare drugs and products are made from oil products: common medicines such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin, or items such as syringes, throw-away packaging, protheses, etc.


Daily-use cosmetics in our society are oil-based, e.g. a wide range of make-up products, creams and ointments, dyes and almost any beauty product you can imagine. The synthesis of oil products has enabled the universalisation of cosmetics, thanks to the enormous demand for them worldwide.


Synthetic fibre of petrochemical origin have contributed major technological solutions and improvements in sports and other leisure activities. Carbon fibre, which is light and flexible, is used in musical instruments instead of protected tropical wood species, and in many other applications such as skateboards and snowboards, as well as being widely used in the automotive and aeronautics sectors.

Books, magazines and paints

Solvents are an oil-based product used in inks for magazines, books and newspapers. They basically consist of pigments mixed with solvents. Chemical products such as turpentine spirit are also mixed with paints or used for cleaning purposes.

Clothing and textiles

The clothes we wear contain combinations of different fabrics. Some of the common ones are lycra, nylon or polyester, all of them oil-based products. Then there are fabrics that replace animal skins, used not only in the fashion, clothing and sports worlds but also in furniture, machinery, piping, etc.

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This is the attention service of the Basque Energy Agency.