How to make gasoline in industrial conditions

All about gasoline production: extraction methods and how much you can get from 1 barrel

Most modern vehicles are equipped with internal combustion engines, the fuel for which is gasoline. They learned how to make it in the 19th century, when it was produced using the primitive method of distillation. Since then, technology has advanced, but the basis for gasoline production is still crude oil.


How much fuel can be made from a barrel of crude oil

Although automobiles are all around us in huge numbers, few have any idea how much gasoline comes from a barrel of crude oil, or how it is made. The main technological process is the so-called “distillation”, after which auxiliary products such as fuel oil, kerosene and even diesel fuel are extracted from the residual oil products.

In spite of the fact that for us the physical measure “1 ton” is more habitual, in the sphere of oil products another unit of measurement is widespread all over the world. Therefore, when we want to understand how much gasoline we get from a ton, we must first remember that each ton contains about 7 barrels, each of which contains about 159 liters of oil.

The technology used in the American refineries has allowed them to increase the volume of the product at the output by another 9 liters. So, they already get 168 liters of petroleum products from a barrel of oil. Let’s see how much and what can be received, based on the category of products from each such barrel:

  • about 5.5-5.6 liters of a combustible substance known as fuel oil. It is indispensable for heating, but it also fuels ships and locomotives;
  • almost 21 liters of aviation fuel. For a modern aircraft this is a very small volume, on which it won’t even be able to fly a couple of kilometers;
  • 8.5 liters of solid petroleum coke, which is a recycled product. It is used in the production of ferroalloys, electrodes, as well as in a number of other cases;
  • About 9 liters of gas, which is extracted in the process of distillation of petroleum products;
  • 25 liters of diesel fuel, which is widely used in diesel cars, trucks and agricultural vehicles;
  • 85 liters of gasoline – that’s how many liters there are in one barrel. For most mid-range cars, this volume is enough to cover about 1,000 kilometers;
  • 4,500 milliliters of gas, which acquires a liquefied form. This product is actively used as vehicle fuel, for heating appliances, in the manufacture of aerosols;
  • a dozen cylinders filled with propane or 1.5 kg. of briquetted charcoal;
  • 1 liter of motor oil – that would be the output of a barrel of oil.

These are not the only uses of oil and its derivatives. They are also used to make components needed by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, the chemical industry and even the food industry.


How gasoline is made in industry

Pure oil, extracted from the bowels of the earth or from the shelf, is used for production. It consists of a couple of main constituents: about 85% carbon and about 15% hydrogen. In the process of combining these, hydrocarbons are obtained, on which the process of direct distillation to create gasoline in industry is based. There can be several such processes, each based on different technologies. The most common among them, however, are platforming, cracking, thermal or catalytic.

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At the beginning of the development of petroleum products by man direct distillation was the simplest chemical process, which, if desired, everyone can master at home. It is based on heating oil, in the process of which separate components are evaporated from it and different petroleum products are obtained. The raw material is placed in a closed container, which is connected to the gas pipe. How do you make gasoline from oil? Simply by heating it to the following temperatures:

  • Gasoline condenses through the tube at 35 to 200 degrees Celsius;
  • kerosene is released at temperatures from 150 to 305;
  • diesel begins to form between 150 and 360 degrees Celsius.

After that it remains to isolate the resulting condensate in a separate container and cool it down. But with the seeming simplicity of the process, it does not give a lot of fuel, and therefore characterized by low economic efficiency. Output of finished petroleum products from 1 liter of raw materials does not exceed 150 ml. In addition, the octane number will be very small – no more than 50-60 units, and such fuel is not used now. To increase its value, we will have to add a lot of additives, which will make the production even more unprofitable. It will not be possible to create industrial production on the basis of such a process of making gasoline from oil.

The process of so-called “direct distillation” of crude oil is known as the main method, which is widely used in modern industry. It is nothing other than separating the feedstock into separate fractions, which differ from each other in their characteristics. The process of direct distillation of crude oil to create gasoline during its refining is briefly as follows: the oil is heated, after which its vapors are released. They, as well as condensate, are selected in separate containers. In this way it is possible to obtain fuel distillates and fuel oil, from which lubricants are subsequently produced.

For this purpose, the industry uses continuous units, in which evaporation with further separation of the distillates into fractions constitutes a single technological process. Further the vapors are condensed and transformed into liquid gasoline. Its yield in the process of distillation can reach 3-15% of the original volume of raw materials used.

Modern industry uses catalytic and thermal cracking of oil. The first method has been widespread since the beginning of the 20th century. Its essence is splitting the feedstock into separate fractions with smaller molecular weight. Among such fractions are certain types of oil products: gasoline, oil, kerosene, diesel fuel, etc. After the formation of the lighter fractions remain the most stable, the burning temperature which reaches already 350 degrees.

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Gasoline obtained by cracking has higher qualities as compared to that obtained by direct distillation. This is due to the fact that it preserves more varieties of hydrocarbons. Both cracking processes can be characterized as follows:

  • Thermal – the splitting occurs due to high temperatures (up to 550 degrees Celsius);
  • catalytic – separation occurs due to the presence of catalysts in the process.

The second method is considered to be more progressive – in this way fuel with high octane number is produced. Deeper and higher quality refining is guaranteed. Vacuum gasoil is used as the main feedstock for catalytic cracking, and other types of feedstock require preliminary preparation. The basic catalyst for the cracking process is aluminosilicates.

In thermal cracking the most important process conditions are operating temperature, reaction time and pressure level. Petroleum products with lower molecular weights are treated with this process. For example, it may be coke or some motor fuels. In order to produce high-quality polymer products, it is important to change pressure levels in order to be able to quickly influence the secondary reactions that take place. In addition to thermal and catalytic cracking, oxidative and electric cracking are also known.

Fuel octane rating

Another indicator that every driver has had to deal with is the so-called “octane number”. You can see different numbers at gas stations, such as 76, 92, 95 and so on. The main definition of this concept is the fuel’s resistance to detonation. The higher it is, the longer the ignition process will be, and thus the more fuel can be compressed before ignition. This increases its efficiency because more energy can be obtained from the fuel in such cases.

Automobile engines are produced that are specifically designed for gasoline, which can be compressed for a long time, without the risk of it exploding. The process is carried out directly in the combustion chambers. Such fuel is usually called high-octane and is produced by industrial gasoline production by adding special additives to it.


The octane number can be measured with a special measuring device called an octane meter. However, this figure will only be an estimate. For a professional measurement you need a laboratory test. This can be done by one of 2 methods:

  • exploratory, in which the fuel is compared by its performance to a reference;
  • Motorized, in which a single-cylinder internal combustion engine is used that can change the compression ratio.

How can the octane number in the production of gasoline in oil affect engine performance? Gasoline with a low number will ignite faster, and this leads to higher consumption and low engine efficiency. Fuel with a high octane number has the opposite qualities: the efficiency of the engine increases, the consumption decreases, although slightly. Much depends on the design values, for which this or that power unit is designed. If the car, for example, is designed for the 95th gasoline, and it was filled with the 92nd, the fuel consumption will be higher. In a reverse situation, the motorist will not get any tangible benefit.

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To understand the expediency of using more expensive high-octane fuel, you can pay attention to such an indicator as the compression level of the engine. There is no sense to fill up with high-octane fuel, if the car is not designed for it structurally. The only consequence will be a readjustment of the intake and exhaust system.

Technologies for producing gasoline and improving its characteristics are constantly being improved. They are also needed because car manufacturers are developing more innovative, fuel-efficient engines that require efficient fuel to operate.

How is gasoline produced and what happens if it disappears?

Many countries are currently experiencing increases in the price of gasoline. In mid-May, for example, the cost of fuel in the United States renewed an all-time high – a gallon of gasoline, which is just under four liters, went up by $4.452 on average. According to Navigant Research, there are about 1.2 billion cars in the world, and 95 percent of them are cars. So it’s not surprising that so many people are watching fuel prices and fluctuating costs make people nervous. In 2022, gasoline has become quite expensive, so it begs the question – what happens if this type of fuel completely disappears? Let’s understand how it is produced, in what areas other than automotive use, and whether there are any good alternatives.

Gasoline is the most popular fuel, but one day it will disappear. And then what happens?

How gasoline is made

To begin with, it’s worth understanding where gasoline comes from. The raw material used to make the fuel is oil, the world’s reserves of which are in marked decline – meaning that at some point in human history, gasoline will indeed disappear. There are two main ways to make gasoline, one old and efficient, and one new and much better.

The raw material for making gasoline is oil

Obtaining gasoline by direct distillation

This is the oldest method of obtaining gasoline, which was used in the days of the first gasoline engines. The essence of this method is the banal heating of oil and evaporation of the necessary substances from it. The chemical process takes place in a closed container with an outlet tube. During the heating of oil at a temperature of 35 to 200 degrees Celsius, gasoline is evaporated from it. Heating from 150 to 305 degrees Celsius gives kerosene, and up to 360 degrees Celsius gives diesel fuel.

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Direct distillation of oil yields gasoline of poor quality

The main disadvantage of this method is that it produces very little gasoline. Only about 150 milliliters of fuel is vaporized from one liter of oil. In addition, the resulting gasoline is of very low quality – the octane number is 50 to 60 units. But for modern cars you need fuel with an octane number of 92 – 95 units.

Octane number is one of the main properties of gasoline

The octane number is an indicator that characterizes how well a particular fuel is resistant to combustion inside the fuel. If the octane number is lower than required for a particular vehicle, the fuel will begin to ignite earlier than necessary. This creates an uncontrollable explosion, which increases the stress on the cylinder-piston group.

Making gasoline by cracking

Today, gasoline is more efficiently produced by cracking. Simply put, oil is decomposed into different constituent parts through chemical and physical processes. Essentially, the complex hydrocarbon molecules are made into the simpler ones that make up gasoline. This approach makes it possible to get much more fuel from a liter of oil. And it turns out to be much better in quality – the octane number is about 70 to 80 units.

Today gasoline is usually produced by catalytic cracking

In order to refuel a car with gasoline derived from oil, the octane number is raised to the right level by adding auxiliary substances. One such substance is tetraethyl lead, a highly toxic compound that reduces the risk of uncontrolled explosions.


Where is gasoline used?

At the end of the XIX century, when cars were rare, gasoline was used as an antiseptic, a cleaning agent and a primus fuel. For reference, a primus is a heating appliance that runs on liquid fuel. It was impossible to use kerosene in these appliances because it was too flammable. When cars with internal combustion engines became more common, gasoline became one of the main fuels. It could only be challenged by diesel, which had a higher efficiency.

Gasoline primus was an obligatory attribute of a Soviet tourist.

In addition to cars, gasoline is used in aviation – this fuel had higher requirements. In addition, solvent gasoline is often used in industry, which is needed in the production of adhesives and paints. Gasoline is good for degreasing fabrics, leather and other materials. In general, unlike the late nineteenth century, gasoline plays a very important role in people’s lives today.

Gasoline can also be aviation gasoline


What to use instead of gasoline?

The world is running out of oil. For now, companies are refining “light” oil, which is easy enough to extract. But in hundreds or tens of years, oil will have to be found at very great depths, which will increase its cost even more. And at some point, the mineral will completely disappear, and with it, gasoline. Fortunately, good alternatives already exist today.

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Every year there is less and less oil in the world.

Gas fuel for cars

Some cars already have engines that run on propane-butane or methane. The first type of fuel is also made from oil, so it will disappear along with gasoline. But methane is natural and is a good alternative. There is an opinion that gas fuel ruins engines. But there is evidence that gas engines, on the contrary, operate without overhaul for 2 years longer than gasoline engines. Gas fuel has one advantage – it is cheaper than gasoline. The disadvantage, at least for now, is the limited number of filling stations. But in the future there could be more.

There are many types of transport on methane

Bioethanol as a fuel

Bioethanol is ethanol made from plant material like sugar cane and corn. Bioethanol can only be used by “Flex-Fuel” vehicles, which are equipped with a multi-fuel engine. It’s a pretty good fuel, but it has at least two big disadvantages. First, bioethanol is not as efficient as gasoline and other fuels. Secondly, it is produced by cutting down tropical forests, so it is very harmful to nature.

The Flex-Fuel car, which runs on ethanol

Hydrogen fuel

Another good alternative to gasoline is hydrogen. It is probably the most environmentally friendly type of automobile fuel. In simple terms, instead of a gas tank, cars are equipped with fuel cells, which are filled with hydrogen under great pressure. When the driver presses the gas pedal, the hydrogen cell interacts with oxygen and generates electricity. The energy spins up the electric motor and the vehicle begins to move. This fuel also has two disadvantages. Firstly, hydrogen is expensive to produce. Second, fuel cells with hydrogen can explode.

Hydrogen cars have great promise, but are quite dangerous

Electric vehicles

Finally, people may switch to electric cars in the future. Many companies have already started making models with electric engines. Most likely, after the disappearance of gasoline, cars will be powered by electricity – the alternatives mentioned above are good, but have too many disadvantages and their production is poorly established. However, electric cars are increasingly criticized because their batteries quickly fail and are thrown away, after which they cause irreparable harm to nature. So it is impossible to be completely confident in their success.

The most popular brand of electric cars is Tesla


And what do you think, what fuel will mankind switch to if gasoline disappears? Share your opinion in the comments. Also read about wood-powered cars – amazingly, they exist.

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