Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling (natural petroleum springs are rare). This comes after the studies of structural geology (at the reservoir scale), sedimentary basin analysis, reservoir characterization (mainly in terms of the porosity and permeability of geologic reservoir structures).

It is refined and separated, most easily by distillation, into a large number of consumer products, from gasoline (petrol) and kerosene to asphalt and chemical reagents used to make plastics and pharmaceuticals. Petroleum is used in manufacturing a wide variety of materials, and it is estimated that the world consumes about 90 million barrels each day.