Mammoth Memory

Hydrocarbons: an introduction

A hydrocarbon is a chemical compound containing only carbon and hydrogen atoms. The word ‘hydrocarbon’ tells you all you need to know:


Hydrocarbons contain only hydrogen and carbon atoms
Picture a high dragon (hydrogen) landing on a burning car (carbon).


One of the most common substances made up of hydrocarbons is a fossil fuel called crude oil. It is an extremely important raw material, used to make a number of different things, including fuels like kerosene and petrol, as well as plastics. Crude oil is broken up into hydrocarbons by fractional distillation and cracking.

Crude oil is the most common hydrocarbon that makes a number of different plastics and fuel.

1st hydrocarbons in crude oil are alkanes. They have a single carbon bond joining their atoms together. Examples of alkanes found in crude oil are methane (natural gas), ethane, propane (sometimes known as liquefied petroleum gas or LPG) and butane.

Hydrocarbons in crude oil are alkanes they have a single bond joining their atoms together these are Methane, Ethane, Propane, Butane

Alkenes are another type of hydrocarbon. Their carbon atoms are joined together by double bonds.  Alkenes are usually formed when alkanes are broken down into smaller molecules during cracking. Examples of alkenes include ethene (used to produce polythene), propene and butene.

Alkenes rather than alkanes are carbon molecules where there atoms are double bonded these form during a process called cracking

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