Hydrocarbon is a molecule that only contains hydrogen and carbon atoms, joined together by covalent bonds. Remember that a covalent bond is a shared pair of electrons.

These compounds may be simple with only a few atoms or more complex with more.

The compounds come in different forms. Methane the smallest hydrocarbon is a gas lighter than air while tar, a much larger compound, is thick and gloopy.

The ability of carbon atoms to bond strongly to each other allows them to form an almost unlimited variety of chains, rings, and other structures that form the backbones of organic molecules. Since each atom can form four bonds, these backbones include other elements, such as hydrogen. The compounds are flammable, since the two elements they contain will combine easily with oxygen in the air, releasing energy. Fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, are naturally occurring mixtures of hydrocarbons; coal also contains some, although it is mostly just carbon.

In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is categorised as an organic compound. {Organic compounds are the complex compounds of carbon. Because carbon atoms bond to one another easily, the basis of most organic compounds is comprised of carbon chains that vary in length and shape. Hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms are the most common atoms that are generally attached to the carbon atoms.}

Hydrocarbons contain a lot of energy.

Hydrocarbons like crude oil and natural gas are harvested for their high energy content.

Crude oil can be distilled to separate different hydrocarbons including petrol.

Carbon is great at bonding and so can easily forms polymers. A polymer is a large molecule that is made up of many smaller, repeating molecules, called monomers, which are joined together by covalent bonds.

Hydrocarbon chains can be broken and rearranged in different ways.  According to B.P. “the hydrocarbon compound is the most versatile on the chemical charts. It can make an estimated 2.5 million possible combinations. Longer, heavier molecules can be transformed into lighter ones and vice versa.”

And so they can be used to make new and different products such as plastic, a wholly synthetic product made from a natural resource.

Hydrocarbons are often used to make polymers.

Many hydrocarbons occur in nature. In addition to making up fossil fuels, they are present in trees and plants,


I suppose I must have studied chemistry at school. I seem to remember some high jinks with a bunsen burner but nothing else. I now realize that you can understand nothing about the practical world without some basic knowledge of how it works. So I am trying to teach myself chemistry via Google. I know I get it wrong sometimes. Do bear that in mind when you read these fumbling explanations that I am learning as I go. Any help gratefully received.

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