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What are hydrocarbons?

1.3

large and small propane tanks
Click to play audio.   Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds that contain two elements – hydrogen and carbon – in various combinations.

Hydrocarbons are most often used as fuels to produce energy in the form of heat. For example, we burn natural gas to heat our water, dry our clothes, and cook our food. We use gasoline as fuel for vehicles to power the engines and provide us transportation. We use propane as fuel in many of our outdoor grills for weekend cookouts.

Hydrocarbons have other uses besides providing a source of fuel. Components of natural gas and other hydrocarbons are used to make different types of plastics, like the plastic bags that are used in grocery stores. Natural gas is used in the manufacture of fertilizers. Oil is part of the asphalt used to build and repair roads and streets. Paraffins and waxes used to make candles and to seal jars of jams and jellies are derived from hydrocarbons.

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