Definition - What does Hydrocarbons mean?

Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms only. They can be in the gaseous or liquid form. Gaseous hydrocarbons are lighter while liquid hydrocarbons are heavier. Petroleum is a mixture of different hydrocarbons. For example, Methane (CH4) is the lightest hydrocarbon in gaseous form and is known as natural gas. Hydrocarbons are predominantly used as a source of combustible fuel from which heat energy can be extracted.

Petropedia explains Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons found on the earth occur naturally and are formed by the microbial action on the organic matter deposited millions of years ago. When an organic matter decays, it contains tremendous amount of carbon and hydrogen atoms which when they come in the contact they form a long chain of hydrocarbons such as crude oil or natural gas (C-H bond). The molecular structure of different types of hydrocarbons is different which results in different empirical formulas of various petroleum hydrocarbons.

Below is a list of the types of hydrocarbons:

  • Cyclo-alklanes - In such type of hydrocarbon, there can be either one or more carbon rings attached to the hydrogen atoms to form a hydrocarbon chain.
  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons - These hydrocarbons consist of one or more aromatic rings and thus they are also known as arenes.
  • Saturated Hydrocarbons - These are general form of hydrocarbons consisting of single bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms. Example, Methane (CH4).
  • Unsaturated Hydrocarbons - This category of hydrocarbons consists of one or more than one double or triple bonds between the carbon atoms.
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