Gasoline (gas), petroleum spirit (petrol) or petrogasoline is a petroleum-derived liquid mixture consisting mostly of aliphatic hydrocarbons, enhanced with iso-octane or the aromatic hydrocarbons toluene and benzene to increase its octane rating, and is primarily used as fuel in internal combustion engines.
Except for Canada, most current or former Commonwealth countries use the word "petrol", abbreviated from petroleum spirit. In North America, the word "gasoline" is commonly used, where it is often shortened in colloquial usage to "gas." It is not a genuinely gaseous fuel like liquefied petroleum gas, which is stored under pressure as a liquid but allowed to return to a gaseous state before combustion.
Mogas, short for motor gasoline, distinguishes automobile fuel from aviation gasoline, or avgas. In British English "gasoline" can refer to a different petroleum derivative historically used in lamps, but this is now uncommon.
Before gasoline was used as fuel for engines, it was sold in small bottles as a treatment against lice and their eggs. At that time, the word Petrol was a trade name. This treatment method is no longer common because of the inherent fire hazard and the risk of dermatitis.
In the USA, gasoline was also sold as a cleaning fluid to remove grease stains from clothing. Before dedicated filling stations were established, early motorists bought gasoline in cans to fill their tanks.
The name gasoline is similar to that of other petroleum products of the day, most notably petroleum jelly, a highly purified heavy distillate, which was branded Vaseline. The trademark Gasoline was never registered, and thus became generic.
Gasoline was also used in kitchen ranges and for lighting, and is still available in a highly purified form, known as camping fuel or white gas, for use in lanterns and portable stoves.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), pétrole was stockpiled in Paris for use against a possible German-Prussian attack on the city. Later in 1871, during the revolutionary Paris Commune, rumours spread around the city of pétroleuses, women using bottles of petrol to commit arson against city buildings.
The word "petrol" was first used in reference to the refined substance in 1892 (it was previously used to refer to unrefined petroleum), and was registered as a trade name by British wholesaler Carless, Capel & Leonard at the suggestion of Frederick Richard Simms.
Carless's competitors used the term "motor spirit" until the 1930s, but never officially registered it as a trademark. It has also been suggested that the word gasoline was coined by Edward Butler in 1887.
In Germany and some other European countries and in New Guinea Pidgin gasoline is called Benzin (German, Croatian, Danish and Turkish), Benzine in Dutch, Bensin (Swedish and Norwegian), Bensiini (Finnish), Benzyna (Polish), Benzina (Catalan) and (Italian), Benzină (Romanian), Бензин (Russian), and other variants of this word. The usage derives from the chemical benzene, not from Bertha Benz, who used chemists' shops to purchase the gasoline for her famous drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 1888.
Gasoline is produced in oil refineries. Material that is separated from crude oil via distillation, called virgin or straight-run gasoline, does not meet the required specifications for modern engines (in particular octane rating; see below), but will form part of the blend.
Many of these hydrocarbons are considered hazardous substances and are regulated in the United States by Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Material Safety Data Sheet for unleaded gasoline shows at least fifteen hazardous chemicals occurring in various amounts. These include benzene (up to 5% by volume), toluene (up to 35% by volume), naphthalene (up to 1% by volume), trimethylbenzene (up to 7% by volume), MTBE (up to 18% by volume) and about ten others.
The various refinery streams blended together to make gasoline all have different characteristics. Some important streams are:
(The terms used here are not always the correct chemical terms. They are the jargon normally used in the oil industry. The exact terminology for these streams varies by refinery and by country.)
Overall a typical gasoline is predominantly a mixture of paraffins (alkanes), naphthenes (cycloalkanes), and olefins (alkenes). The exact ratios can depend on
Currently many countries set tight limits on gasoline aromatics in general, benzene in particular, and olefin (alkene) content. This is increasing the demand for high octane pure paraffin (alkane) components, such as alkylate, and is forcing refineries to add processing units to reduce the benzene content.
Gasoline can also contain some other organic compounds: such as organic ethers (deliberately added), plus small levels of contaminants, in particular sulfur compounds such as disulfides and thiophenes. Some contaminants, in particular thiols and hydrogen sulfide, must be removed because they cause corrosion in engines. Sulfur compounds are usually removed by hydrotreating, yielding hydrogen sulfide which can then be transformed into elemental sulfur via the Claus process.
As an example, 65l of mogas (the maximum allowed in microlight aircraft in some countries) weighs about 50kg. This is a significant proportion of the payload: an Ikarus C42 has an empty weight of 270kg, so with full fuel the passenger(s) and any baggage must total no more than 130kg (290 lb).
Gasoline is more volatile than diesel oil, Jet-A or kerosene, not only because of the base constituents, but because of the additives that are put into it. The final control of volatility is often achieved by blending with butane. The Reid Vapor Pressure test is used to measure the volatility of gasoline. The desired volatility depends on the ambient temperature: in hotter climates, gasoline components of higher molecular weight and thus lower volatility are used. In cold climates, too little volatility results in cars failing to start. In hot climates, excessive volatility results in what is known as "vapour lock" where combustion fails to occur, because the liquid fuel has changed to a gaseous fuel in the fuel lines, rendering the fuel pump ineffective and starving the engine of fuel.
In the United States, volatility is regulated in large urban centers to reduce the emission of unburned hydrocarbons. In large cities, so-called reformulated gasoline that is less prone to evaporation, among other properties, is required. In Australia summer petrol volatility limits are set by State Governments and vary between capital cities. Most countries simply have a summer, winter and perhaps intermediate limit.
Volatility standards may be relaxed (allowing more gasoline components into the atmosphere) during emergency anticipated gasoline shortages. For example, on 31 August 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina, the United States permitted the sale of non-reformulated gasoline in some urban areas, which effectively permitted an early switch from summer to winter-grade gasoline. As mandated by EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson, this "fuel waiver" was made effective through 15 September 2005. Though relaxed volatility standards may increase the atmospheric concentration of volatile organic compounds in warm weather, higher volatility gasoline effectively increases a nation's gasoline supply because the amount of butane in the gasoline pool is allowed to increase.
Instead, Germany had developed a synthetic fuel capacity that was intended to replace imported or captured oil. Fuels were generated from coal, using either the Bergius process or the Fischer-Tropsch process. Between 1938 and 1943, synthetic fuel output underwent a respectable growth from to 36 million. The percentage of synthetic fuels compared with the yield from all sources grew from 22% to more than 50% by 1943. The total oil supplies available from all sources for the same period rose from in 1938 to in 1943.
By the early 1930s, automobile gasoline had an octane reading of 40 and aviation gasoline of 75-80. Aviation gasoline with such high octane numbers could only be refined through a process of distillation of high-grade petroleum. Germany’s domestic oil was not of this quality. Only the additive tetra-ethyl lead could raise the octane to a maximum of 87. The license for the production of this additive was acquired in 1935 from the American holder of the patents, but without high-grade Romanian oil even this additive was not very effective. 100 octane fuel, designated either 'C-2' (natural) or 'C-3' (synthethic) was introduced in late 1939 with the Daimler-Benz DB 601N engine, used in certain of the Luftwaffe`s Bf 109E and Bf 109F single-engined fighters, Bf 110C twin-engined fighters, and several bomber types. Some later combat types, most notably the BMW 801D-powered Fw 190A, F and G series, and later war Bf 109G and K models, used C-3 as well. The nominally 87 octane aviation fuel designated 'B-4' was produced in parallel during the war.
In the US the oil was not "as good," and the oil industry had to invest heavily in various expensive boosting systems. This turned out to have benefits: the US industry started delivering fuels of increasing octane ratings by adding more of the boosting agents, and the infrastructure was in place for a post-war octane-agents additive industry. Good crude oil was no longer a factor during wartime, and by war's end American aviation fuel was commonly 130 octane, and 150 octane was available in limited quantities for fighters from the summer of 1944. This high octane could easily be used in existing engines to deliver much more power by increasing the pressure delivered by the superchargers.
In late 1942, the Germans increased to octane rating of their high-grade 'C-3' aviation fuel to 150 octane. The relative volumes of production of the two grades B-4 and C-3 cannot be accurately given, but in the last war years perhaps two-thirds of the total was C-3. Every effort was being made toward the end of the war to increase isoparaffin production; more isoparaffin meant more C-3 available for fighter plane use.
A common misconception exists concerning wartime fuel octane numbers. There are two octane numbers for each fuel, one for lean mix and one for rich mix, rich being greater. The misunderstanding that German fuels had a lower octane number (and thus a poorer quality) arose because the Germans quoted the lean mix octane number for their fuels while the Allies quoted the rich mix number. Standard German high-grade 'C-3' aviation fuel used in the later part of the war had lean/rich octane numbers of 100/130. The Germans listed this as a 100 octane fuel, the Allies as 130 octane.
After the war the US Navy sent a Technical Mission to Germany to interview German petrochemists and examine German fuel quality. Their report entitled “Technical Report 145-45 Manufacture of Aviation Gasoline in Germany” chemically analyzed the different fuels, and concluded that “Toward the end of the war the quality of fuel being used by the German fighter planes was quite similar to that being used by the Allies.”
Gasoline contains about 34.8 MJ/L or 132 MJ/US gallon. This is about 9.67 kWh/L or 36.6 kWh/US gallon. This is an average; gasoline blends differ, therefore actual energy content varies from season to season and from batch to batch, by up to 4% more or less than the average, according to the US EPA. On average, about of gasoline are available from a barrel of crude oil (about 46% by volume), varying due to quality of crude and grade of gasoline. The remaining residue comes off as products ranging from tar to naptha .
Volumetric energy density of some fuels compared with gasoline:
|Fuel type||MJ/litre||MJ/kg|| Research octane|
|Regular Gasoline||34.8||44.4||150,100||125,000||Min 91|
|Premium Gasoline||39.5||Min 95|
|Autogas (LPG) (60% Propane + 40% Butane)||26.8||46||108|
|Gasohol (10% ethanol + 90% gasoline)||33.7||145,200||120,900||93/94|
|Aviation gasoline (high octane gasoline, not jet fuel)||33.5||46.8||144,400||120,200|
|Jet fuel (kerosene based)||35.1||43.8||151,242||125,935|
|Liquefied natural gas||25.3||~55||109,000||90,800|
(*) Diesel is not used in a gasoline engine, so its low octane rating is not an issue; the relevant metric for diesel engines is the cetane number
A high octane fuel such as Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has a lower energy content than lower octane gasoline, resulting in an overall lower power output at the regular compression ratio an engine ran at on gasoline. However, with an engine tuned to the use of LPG (i.e. via higher compression ratios such as 12:1 instead of 8:1), this lower power output can be overcome. This is because higher-octane fuels allow for a higher compression ratio - this means less space in a cylinder on its combustion stroke, hence a higher cylinder temperature which improves efficiency according to Carnot's theorem, along with fewer wasted hydrocarbons (therefore less pollution and wasted energy), bringing higher power levels coupled with less pollution overall because of the greater efficiency.
The main reason for the lower energy content (per litre) of LPG in comparison to gasoline is that it has a lower density. Energy content per kilogram is higher than for gasoline (higher hydrogen to carbon ratio). The weight-density of gasoline is about 740 kg/m³ (6.175 lb/US gal; 7.416 lb/imp gal).
Different countries have some variation in what RON (Research Octane Number) is standard for gasoline, or petrol. In the UK, ordinary regular unleaded petrol is 91 RON (not commonly available), premium unleaded petrol is always 95 RON, and super unleaded is usually 97-98 RON. However both Shell and BP produce fuel at 102 RON for cars with hi-performance engines, and the supermarket chain Tesco began in 2006 to sell super unleaded petrol rated at 99 RON. In the US, octane ratings in unleaded fuels can vary between 86-87 AKI (91-92 RON) for regular, through 89-90 AKI (94-95 RON) for mid-grade (European Premium), up to 90-94 AKI (95-99 RON) for premium (European Super).
In the US, where lead had been blended with gasoline (primarily to boost octane levels) since the early 1920s, standards to phase out leaded gasoline were first implemented in 1973. In 1995, leaded fuel accounted for only 0.6% of total gasoline sales and less than 2,000 short tons of lead per year. From January 1, 1996, the Clean Air Act banned the sale of leaded fuel for use in on-road vehicles. Possession and use of leaded gasoline in a regular on-road vehicle now carries a maximum $10,000 fine in the US. However, fuel containing lead may continue to be sold for off-road uses, including aircraft, racing cars, farm equipment, and marine engines. The ban on leaded gasoline led to thousands of tons of lead not being released in the air by automobiles. Similar bans in other countries have resulted in lowering levels of lead in people's bloodstreams.
A side effect of the lead additives was protection of the valve seats from erosion. Many classic cars' engines have needed modification to use lead-free fuels since leaded fuels became unavailable. However, "Lead substitute" products are also produced and can sometimes be found at auto parts stores. These were scientifically tested and some were approved by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs at the UK's Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) in 1999. http://www.fbhvc.co.uk/fuel/index.htm
Gasoline, as delivered at the pump, also contains additives to reduce internal engine carbon buildups, improve combustion, and to allow easier starting in cold climates.
In some parts of South America, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, leaded gasoline is still in use. Leaded gasoline was phased out in sub-Saharan Africa effective 1 January, 2006. A growing number of countries have drawn up plans to ban leaded gasoline in the near future.
US Federal sources state that MMT is suspected to be a powerful neurotoxin and respiratory toxin, and a large Canadian study concluded that MMT impairs the effectiveness of automobile emission controls and increases pollution from motor vehicles.
In 1977 use of MMT was banned in the US by the Clean Air Act until the Ethyl Corporation could prove that the additive would not lead to failure of new car emissions-control systems. As a result of this ruling, the Ethyl Corporation began a legal battle with the EPA, presenting evidence that MMT was harmless to automobile emissions-control systems. In 1995 the US Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority, and MMT became a legal fuel additive in the US. MMT is nowadays manufactured by the Afton Chemical Corporation division of Newmarket Corporation.
In several states, ethanol is added by law to a minimum level which is currently 5.9%. Most fuel pumps display a sticker stating that the fuel may contain up to 10% ethanol, an intentional disparity which allows the minimum level to be raised over time without requiring modification of the literature/labeling. The bill which was being debated at the time the disclosure of the presence of ethanol in the fuel was mandated has recently passed. This law (Energy Policy Act of 2005) will require all auto fuel to contain at least 10% ethanol. Many call this fuel mix gasohol.
In the EU, 5% ethanol can be added within the common gasoline spec (EN 228). Discussions are ongoing to allow 10% blending of ethanol. Most countries (fuel distributors) today do not add so much ethanol. Most gasoline (petrol) sold in Sweden has 5% ethanol added.
In Brazil, the Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) requires that gasoline for automobile use has 23% of ethanol added to its composition.
MTBE use is being phased out in some states due to issues with contamination of ground water. In some places, such as California, it is already banned. Ethanol and to a lesser extent the ethanol derived ETBE are a common replacements. Especially since ethanol derived from biomatter such as corn, sugar cane or grain is frequent, this will often be referred to as bio-ethanol. A common ethanol-gasoline mix of 10% ethanol mixed with gasoline is called gasohol or E10, and an ethanol-gasoline mix of 85% ethanol mixed with gasoline is called E85. The most extensive use of ethanol takes place in Brazil, where the ethanol is derived from sugarcane. In 2004, over 3.4 billion US gallons (2.8 billion imp gal/13 million m³) of ethanol was produced in the United States for fuel use, mostly from corn, and E85 is slowly becoming available in much of the United States. Unfortunately many of the relatively few stations vending E85 are not open to the general public. The use of bioethanol, either directly or indirectly by conversion of such ethanol to bio-ETBE, is encouraged by the European Union Directive on the Promotion of the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport. However since producing bio-ethanol from fermented sugars and starches involves distillation, ordinary people in much of Europe cannot legally ferment and distill their own bio-ethanol at present (unlike in the US where getting a BATF distillation permit has been easy since the 1973 oil crisis.)
Many of the non-aliphatic hydrocarbons naturally present in gasoline (especially aromatic ones like benzene), as well as many anti-knocking additives, are carcinogenic. Because of this, any large-scale or ongoing leaks of gasoline pose a threat to the public's health and the environment, should the gasoline reach a public supply of drinking water. The chief risks of such leaks come not from vehicles, but from gasoline delivery truck accidents and leaks from storage tanks. Because of this risk, most (underground) storage tanks now have extensive measures in place to detect and prevent any such leaks, such as sacrificial anodes. Gasoline is rather volatile (meaning it readily evaporates), requiring that storage tanks on land and in vehicles be properly sealed. The high volatility also means that it will easily ignite in cold weather conditions, unlike diesel for example. Appropriate venting is needed to ensure the level of pressure is similar on the inside and outside. Gasoline also reacts dangerously with certain common chemicals.
Gasoline is also one of the sources of pollutant gases. Even gasoline which does not contain lead or sulfur compounds produces carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide in the exhaust of the engine which is running on it. Furthermore, unburnt gasoline and evaporation from the tank, when in the atmosphere, react in sunlight to produce photochemical smog. Addition of ethanol increases the volatility of gasoline.
Through misuse as an inhalant, gasoline also contributes to damage to health. Petrol sniffing is a common way of obtaining a high for many people and has become epidemic in some poorer communities and indigenous groups in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands. In response, Opal fuel has been developed by the BP Kwinana Refinery in Australia, and contains only 5% aromatics (unlike the usual 25%) which inhibits the effects of inhalation.
Like other alkanes, gasoline burns in the vapor phase and, coupled with its volatility, this makes leaks highly dangerous when sources of ignition are present. Many accidents involve gasoline being used in an attempt to light bonfires; rather than helping the material on the bonfire to burn, some of the gasoline vaporises quickly after being poured and mixes with the surrounding air, so when the fire is lit a moment later the vapor surrounding the bonfire instantly ignites in a large fireball, engulfing the unwary user. The vapor is also heavier than air and tends to collect in garage inspection pits.
The US accounts for about 44% of the world’s gasoline consumption. In 2003 The US consumed , which equates to 1.3 gigalitres of gasoline each day (about 360 million US gallons or 300 million imperial gallons). The US used about 510 billion litres (138 billion US gal/115 billion imp gal) of gasoline in 2006, of which 5.6% was mid-grade and 9.5% was premium grade.
Western countries have among the highest usage rates per person.
Based on externalities, some countries, e.g. in Europe and Japan, impose heavy fuel taxes on fuels such as gasoline. Because a greater proportion of the price of gasoline in the United States is due to the cost of oil, rather than taxes, the price of the retail product is subject to greater fluctuations (vs. outside the US) when calculated as a percentage of cost-per-unit, but is actually less variable in absolute terms.
Gummy, sticky resin deposits result from oxidative degradation of gasoline. This degradation can be prevented through the use of antioxidants such as phenylenediamines, alkylenediamines (diethylenetriamine, triethylenetetramine, etc), and alkylamines (diethylamine, tributylamine, ethylamine). Other useful additives include gum inhibitors such as N-substituted alkylaminophenols and colour stabilizers such as N-(2-aminoethyl)piperazine, N,N-diethylhydroxylamine, and triethylenetetramine.
Improvements in refinery techniques have generally reduced the reliance on the catalytically or thermally cracked stocks most susceptible to oxidation. Gasoline containing acidic contaminants such as naphthenic acids can be addressed with additives including strongly basic organo-amines such as N,N-diethylhydroxylamine, preventing metal corrosion and breakdown of other antioxidant additives due to acidity. Hydrocarbons with a bromine number of 10 or above can be protected with the combination of unhindered or partially hindered phenols and oil soluble strong amine bases such as monoethanolamine, N-(2-aminoethyl)piperazine, cyclohexylamine, 1,3-cyclohexane-bis(methylamine), 2,5-dimethylaniline, 2,6-dimethylaniline, diethylenetriamine and triethylenetetramine.
Companies such as Sapphire Energy are developing a means to "grow" gasoline, that is, produce it directly from living organisms (i.e. algae). Biogasoline has the advantage of not needing any change in vehicle or distribution infrastructure.