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Crude Oil vs. Natural Gas: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 30, 2023
Crude oil is a liquid hydrocarbon, whereas natural gas is primarily methane in gaseous form.

Key Differences

Crude oil is a naturally occurring, unrefined petroleum product composed of hydrocarbon deposits. Natural gas, on the other hand, is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, but can include other hydrocarbons.
Crude oil is in a liquid state at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. Natural gas is gaseous under similar conditions. Both crude oil and natural gas can be found together in underground reservoirs, but their states differentiate them.
Crude oil is refined to produce a variety of products including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Natural gas is primarily used for heating, electricity generation, and as a fuel for vehicles, especially after being compressed or liquefied.
When burned, crude oil releases more carbon dioxide compared to natural gas. Natural gas is often championed as a cleaner alternative to coal and crude oil because it emits fewer pollutants and has a lower carbon footprint.
The pricing mechanisms for crude oil and natural gas differ. Crude oil prices are often influenced by global events and supply-demand imbalances, while natural gas prices are more regionally influenced, reflecting transportation costs and local supply-demand conditions.

Comparison Chart


Liquid at room temperature
Gaseous at room temperature

Primary Constituent



Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.
Heating, electricity, vehicle fuel

Environmental Impact

Higher carbon dioxide emissions
Lower carbon dioxide emissions

Pricing Mechanism

Globally influenced
Regionally influenced

Crude Oil and Natural Gas Definitions

Crude Oil

Crude oil often coexists with natural gas in underground reservoirs.
In many drilling sites, both crude oil and natural gas are extracted together.

Natural Gas

Natural gas can be converted into liquid form for easier transportation.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an important export for many countries.

Crude Oil

Crude oil is the raw form of petroleum used to produce gasoline.
Refineries process crude oil to meet energy demands.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a flammable gas primarily consisting of methane.
Natural gas is piped into homes for heating and cooking.

Crude Oil

Crude oil is an unrefined liquid hydrocarbon extracted from the earth.
The company struck a rich deposit of crude oil in Texas.

Natural Gas

Natural gas emits fewer pollutants compared to coal and crude oil when burned.
Switching to natural gas can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Crude Oil

Crude oil serves as a foundational element for various petrochemical products.
From crude oil, we derive products ranging from plastics to fuels.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel used for heating and electricity generation.
Power plants use natural gas for producing electricity due to its cleaner burn.

Crude Oil

Crude oil is a mixture of organic compounds, primarily carbon and hydrogen.
The quality of crude oil can vary based on its composition.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is found in underground rock formations alongside crude oil.
Drilling operations often tap into reserves of both natural gas and crude oil.


Are crude oil and natural gas always found together?

No, but they often coexist in underground reservoirs.

How is natural gas used in homes?

Natural gas is commonly used for heating and cooking in homes.

Is crude oil renewable?

No, crude oil is non-renewable and finite.

What is crude oil primarily made of?

Crude oil is primarily made of hydrocarbons.

How is crude oil turned into gasoline?

Crude oil is refined in refineries to produce gasoline among other products.

Can natural gas be used in cars?

Yes, in compressed or liquefied form, it's used as a vehicle fuel.

What determines the quality of crude oil?

Factors like sulfur content and density determine crude oil quality.

Why is crude oil considered "black gold"?

Because of its high economic value and significance in global trade.

Is natural gas a cleaner energy source?

Yes, natural gas emits fewer pollutants and has a lower carbon footprint than crude oil.

How is natural gas formed?

Natural gas is formed from the remains of ancient marine organisms subjected to heat and pressure over millions of years.

Can crude oil be used directly without refining?

No, crude oil needs refining to produce usable products.

What's the main component of natural gas?

Methane is the primary component of natural gas.

Is natural gas odorless?

Yes, but an odorant is often added for safety reasons to detect leaks.

How is natural gas transported over long distances?

It's often transported as liquefied natural gas (LNG) in tankers.

How is the price of crude oil determined?

Crude oil prices are influenced by global events, supply-demand imbalances, and geopolitical factors.

What are the byproducts of refining crude oil?

Byproducts include gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, asphalt, lubricants, and petrochemicals.

What are the environmental benefits of using natural gas over coal?

Natural gas emits fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases compared to coal.

Are there alternatives to crude oil for fuel?

Yes, alternatives include biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen among others.

Can natural gas be stored?

Yes, it can be stored underground or as LNG in tanks.

How does crude oil extraction impact the environment?

Crude oil extraction can lead to spills, habitat disruption, and greenhouse gas emissions.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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