From New World Encyclopedia

The word "Gasoline" is used in North America, as shown on this can, where as "Petrol" is used in most other Commonwealth countries.

Gasoline (also called gas, 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.


Gasoline is a mixture of hydrocarbons, although some may contain significant quantities of ethanol and some may contain small quantities of additives such as methyl tert-butyl ether as anti-knock agents to increase the octane rating or as an oxygenate to reduce emissions. The hydrocarbons consist of a mixture of n-paraffins, naphthenes, olefins, and aromatics. Naphthenes, olefins, and aromatics increase the octane rating of the gasoline whereas the n-paraffins have the opposite effect.[1]

Early uses

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 U.S., 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, rumors spread around the city of pétroleuses, women using bottles of petrol to commit arson against city buildings.


The word "gasolene" was coined in 1865 from the word gas and the chemical suffix -ine/-ene. The modern spelling was first used in 1871. The shortened form "gas" for gasoline was first recorded in American English in 1905 [2] and is often confused with the older words gas and gases that have been used since the early 1600s. Gasoline originally referred to any liquid used as the fuel for a gasoline-powered engine, other than diesel fuel or liquefied gas; methanol racing fuel would have been classed as a type of gasoline.[3]

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.[4]

Carless's competitors used the term "motor spirit" until the 1930s, but never officially registered it as a trademark.[2][5] It has also been suggested that the word was coined by Edward Butler in 1887.[6]

In Germany and some other European countries and in New Guinea Pidgin gasoline is called Benzin (German, Danish, and Turkish), Benzine in Dutch, Bensin (Swedish and Norwegian), Bensiini (Finnish), Benzyna (Polish), Benzina (Catalan), 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.

Chemical analysis and production

A United States nodding donkey.
An oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Old petrol pumps in Nøtterøy, Norway.

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.

The bulk of a typical gasoline consists of hydrocarbons with between 5 and 12 carbon atoms per molecule.

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 percent by volume), toluene (up to 35 percent by volume), naphthalene (up to 1 percent by volume), trimethylbenzene (up to 7 percent by volume), MTBE (up to 18 percent by volume) and about ten others.[7]

The various refinery streams blended together to make gasoline all have different characteristics. Some important streams are:

  • Reformate, produced in a catalytic reformer with a high octane rating and high aromatic content, and very low olefins (alkenes).
  • Cat Cracked Gasoline or Cat Cracked Naphtha, produced from a catalytic cracker, with a moderate octane rating, high olefins (alkene) content, and moderate aromatics level. Here, "cat" is short for "catalytic".
  • Hydrocrackate (Heavy, Mid, and Light), produced from a hydrocracker, with medium to low octane rating and moderate aromatic levels.
  • Virgin or Straight-run Naphtha (has many names), directly from crude oil with low octane rating, low aromatics (depending on the crude oil), some naphthenes (cycloalkanes) and no olefins (alkenes).
  • Alkylate, produced in an alkylation unit, with a high octane rating and which is pure paraffin (alkane), mainly branched chains.
  • Isomerate (various names) which is obtained by isomerising the pentane and hexane in light virgin naphthas to yield their higher octane isomers.

(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

  • The oil refinery that makes the gasoline, as not all refineries have the same set of processing units
  • The crude oil feed used by the refinery
  • The grade of gasoline, in particular the octane rating

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.

The density of gasoline is 0.71–0.77 g/cm3,[8] (in English units, approx. 0.026 lb/cu in or 6.073 lb/U.S. gal or 7.29 lb/imp gal) which means it floats on water. This may be advantageous in the event of a spill. It is flammable and can burn while floating over water.


A container for storing gasoline used in Germany

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 "vapor 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 August 31, 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 September 15, 2005.[9] 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.

Octane rating

An important characteristic of gasoline is its octane rating, which is a measure of how resistant gasoline is to the abnormal combustion phenomenon known as detonation (also known as knocking, pinking, spark knock, and other names). Deflagration is the normal type of combustion. Octane rating is measured relative to a mixture of 2,2,4-trimethylpentane (an isomer of octane) and n-heptane. There are a number of different conventions for expressing the octane rating; therefore, the same fuel may be labeled with a different number, depending upon the system used.

The octane rating became important in the search for higher output powers from aero engines in the late 1930s and the 1940s as it allowed higher compression ratios to be used.

World War II and octane ratings

During World War II, Germany received much of its oil from Romania. From 2.8 million barrels (450,000 m³) in 1938, Romania’s exports to Germany increased to 13 million barrels (2,100,000 m³) by 1941, a level that was essentially maintained through 1942 and 1943, before dropping by half, due to Allied bombing and mining of the Danube. Although these exports were almost half of Romania’s total production, they were considerably less than what the Germans expected. Even with the addition of the Romanian deliveries, overland oil imports after 1939 could not make up for the loss of overseas shipments. In order to become less dependent on outside sources, the Germans undertook a sizable expansion program of their own meager domestic oil pumping. After 1938, the Austrian oil fields were made available, and the expansion of Nazi crude oil output was chiefly concentrated there. Primarily as a result of this expansion, the Reich's domestic output of crude oil increased from approximately 3.8 million barrels (600,000 m³) in 1938 to almost 12 million barrels (1,900,000 m³) in 1944. Even this was not enough.

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 10 million barrels (1,600,000 m³) to 36 million. The percentage of synthetic fuels compared with the yield from all sources grew from 22 percent to more than 50 percent by 1943. The total oil supplies available from all sources for the same period rose from 45 million barrels (7,200,000 m³) in 1938 to 71 million barrels (11,300,000 m³) 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" (synthetic) 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”

Energy content

A container for storing gasoline used in the United States; red containers are typically used.

Gasoline contains about 34.8 MJ/L or 132 MJ/US gallon. This is about 9.67 kWh/L or 36.6 kWh/U.S. 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 percent more or less than the average, according to the U.S. EPA. On average, about 19.5 US gallons (16.2 imp gal/74 L) of gasoline are available from a Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSonUSre barrel of crude oil (about 46 percent by volume), varying due to quality of crude and grade of gasoline. The remaining residue comes off as products ranging from tar to naptha.[10]

Volumetric energy density of some fuels compared with gasoline:[11]

Fuel type      MJ/litre      MJ/kg     BTU/Imp gal     BTU/US gal     Research octane
number (RON)
Regular Gasoline 34.8 44.4[12] 150,100 125,000 Min 91
Premium Gasoline 39.5 Min 95
Autogas (LPG) (60% Propane + 40% Butane) 26.8 46 108
Ethanol 23.5 31.1[13] 101,600 84,600 129
Methanol 17.9 19.9 77,600 64,600 123
Butanol 29.2 91-99
Gasohol (10% ethanol + 90% gasoline) 33.7 145,200 120,900 93/94
Diesel 38.6 45.4 166,600 138,700 25(*)
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
Hydrogen 121 130[14]

(*) 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 (that is, 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 U.S., 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).



The mixture known as gasoline, when used in high compression internal combustion engines, has a tendency to autoignite(detonation) causing a damaging "engine knocking" (also called "pinging") noise. Early research into this effect was led by A.H. Gibson and Harry Ricardo in England and Thomas Midgley and Thomas Boyd in the United States. The discovery that lead additives modified this behavior led to the widespread adoption of the practice in the 1920s and therefore more powerful higher compression engines. The most popular additive was tetra-ethyl lead. However, with the discovery of the environmental and health damage caused by the lead, and the incompatibility of lead with catalytic converters found on virtually all newly sold U.S. automobiles since 1975, this practice began to wane (encouraged by many governments introducing differential tax rates) in the 1980s. Most countries are phasing out leaded fuel; different additives have replaced the lead compounds. The most popular additives include aromatic hydrocarbons, ethers and alcohol (usually ethanol or methanol).

In the U.S., 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 percent 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.[15] 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.[16][17]

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.

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 January 1, 2006. A growing number of countries have drawn up plans to ban leaded gasoline in the near future.


Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) has been used for many years in Canada and recently in Australia to boost octane. It also helps old cars designed for leaded fuel run on unleaded fuel without need for additives to prevent valve problems.

U.S. Federal sources state that MMT is suspected to be a powerful neurotoxin and respiratory toxin,[18] and a large Canadian study concluded that MMT impairs the effectiveness of automobile emission controls and increases pollution from motor vehicles.[19]

In 1977, use of MMT was banned in the U.S. 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 U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority, and MMT became a legal fuel additive in the U.S. MMT is nowadays manufactured by the Afton Chemical Corporation division of Newmarket Corporation.[20]


In the United States, ethanol is sometimes added to gasoline but sold without an indication that it is a component. Chevron, 76, Shell, and several other brands market ethanol-gasoline blends.

In several states, ethanol is added by law to a minimum level which is currently 5.9 percent. Most fuel pumps display a sticker stating that the fuel may contain up to 10 percent 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 percent ethanol. Many call this fuel mix gasohol.

In the EU, 5 percent ethanol can be added within the common gasoline spec (EN 228). Discussions are ongoing to allow 10 percent blending of ethanol. Most countries (fuel distributors) today do not add so much ethanol. Most gasoline (petrol) sold in Sweden has 5 percent ethanol added.

In Brazil, the Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) requires that gasoline for automobile use has 23 percent of ethanol added to its composition.


In the United States the most commonly used aircraft gasoline, avgas, or aviation gas, is known as 100LL (100 octane, low lead) and is dyed blue. Red dye has been used for identifying untaxed (non-highway use) agricultural diesel. The UK uses red dye to differentiate between regular diesel fuel, (often referred to as DERV from Diesel-Engined Road Vehicle), which is undyed, and diesel intended for agricultural and construction vehicles like excavators and bulldozers. Red diesel is still occasionally used on HGVs which use a separate engine to power a loader crane. This is a declining practice however, as many loader cranes are powered directly by the tractor unit.

Oxygenate blending

Oxygenate blending adds oxygen to the fuel in oxygen-bearing compounds such as MTBE, ETBE, and ethanol, and so reduces the amount of carbon monoxide and unburned fuel in the exhaust gas, thus reducing smog. In many areas throughout the U.S. oxygenate blending is mandated by EPA regulations to reduce smog and other airborne pollutants. For example, in Southern California, fuel must contain 2 percent oxygen by weight, resulting in a mixture of 5.6 percent ethanol in gasoline. The resulting fuel is often known as reformulated gasoline (RFG) or oxygenated gasoline. The federal requirement that RFG contain oxygen was dropped May 6, 2006, because the industry had developed VOC-controlled RFG that did not need additional oxygen.[21]

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 percent 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 U.S. 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.[22] 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 U.S. where getting a BATF distillation permit has been easy since the 1973 oil crisis.)

Health concerns

Uncontrolled burning of gasoline produces large quantities of soot.

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.[23] In response, Opal fuel has been developed by the BP Kwinana Refinery in Australia, and contains only 5 percent aromatics (unlike the usual 25 percent) which inhibits the effects of inhalation.[24]

Like other alkenes, 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 vaporizes 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.

Usage and pricing

The U.S. accounts for about 44 percent of the world’s gasoline consumption.[25][26] In 2003, The U.S. consumed Template:Convert/GL,[27] which equates to 1.3 gigalitres of gasoline each day (about 360 million U.S. gallons or 300 million imperial gallons). The U.S. used about 510 billion liters (138 billion U.S. gal/115 billion imp gal) of gasoline in 2006, of which 5.6 percent was mid-grade and 9.5 percent was premium grade.[28]

Western countries have among the highest usage rates per person.

Based on externalities, some countries, for example, 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 U.S.) when calculated as a percentage of cost-per-unit, but is actually less variable in absolute terms.


When gasoline is left for a period of time, gums and varnishes may build up and precipitate in the gasoline, causing "stale fuel." This will cause gums to build up in the fuel tank, lines, and carburetor or fuel injection components making it harder to start the engine. Motor gasoline may be stored up to 60 days in an approved container. If it is to be stored for a longer period of time, a fuel stabilizer may be used. This will extend the life of the fuel to about 1-2 years, and keep it fresh for the next uses. Fuel stabilizer is commonly used for small engines such as lawnmower and tractor engines to promote quicker and more reliable starting. Users have been advised to keep gasoline containers and tanks more than half full and properly capped to reduce air exposure, to avoid storage at high temperatures,[29] to run an engine for ten minutes to circulate the stabilizer through all components prior to storage, and to run the engine at intervals to purge stale fuel from the carburetor.[30]

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 color stabilizers such as N-(2-aminoethyl)piperazine, N,N-diethylhydroxylamine, and triethylenetetramine.[31]

By 1975, improvements in refinery techniques have generally reduced the reliance on the catalytically or thermally cracked stocks most susceptible to oxidation.[32] 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.[31]

"Stale" gasoline can be detected by a colorimetric enzymatic test for organic peroxides produced by oxidation of the gasoline.[33]

Other fuels

Many of these alternatives are less damaging to the environment than gasoline, but the first generation biofuels are still not 100 percent clean.

  • Biofuels:
    • Biodiesel, for diesel engines
    • Biobutanol, for gasoline engines
    • Bioethanol
    • Biogasoline
  • Compressed air
  • Hydrogen fuel
  • Electricity
  • Fossil fuels:
    • CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)
    • Petrodiesel

Bioconversion and biogasoline

XcelPlus Global Holdings, working in conjunction with Maverick BioFuels, developed the technology in which a fuel compatible with internal combustion gasoline engines is derived from natural renewable oils like soybean, other vegetable oils and biodiesel. Initial marketing efforts will focus on an additive package for converting ordinary Biodiesel into gasoline, adding the Biolene additive package. The additive is expected to be on the market later this year. Home blenders can expect final pump-grade fuel to cost approximately US$2.70 per U.S. gallon ($3.24/imp gal, 71¢/L).[34]

Companies such as Sapphire Energy are developing a means to "grow" gasoline, that is, produce it directly from living organisms (that is, algae). Biogasoline has the advantage of not needing any change in vehicle or distribution infrastructure.

See also


  1. Chromatography Online, gasoline components. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Online Etymology Dictionary, Gasoline. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  3. Window on State Government, Motor Fuels Tax Audit Procedures Manual—Ch 153—Glossary. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  4. Petrochem Carless, History. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  5. Ron Hincks, Our Motoring Heritage: Petrol & Oil, Chrysler Collector 154 (2004): 16–20.
  6. Daily Telegraph, Keeping track: All fired up about "petrol." Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  7. First Fuel Bank, Material Safety Data Sheet, Tesoro Petroleum Companies, Inc., USA. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  8. NOAA, Bell Fuels: Lead-Free Gasoline Material Safety Data Sheet. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  9. EPA, Week 1: Nationwide fuel waiver issued to bolster fuel supplies, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  10. Gravmag, Oil Industry Statistics from Gibson Consulting. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  11. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Appendix B, Transportation Energy Data Book, Center for Transportation Analysis. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  12. George Thomas, Overview of Storage Development DOE Hydrogen Program, Sandia National Laboratories. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  13. Calculated from heats of formation. Does not correspond exactly to the figure for MJ/l divided by density.
  14. The National Hydrogen Association, FAQs. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  15. EPA, EPA Takes Final Step in Phaseout of Leaded Gasoline, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  16. Lourdes Schnaas, Stephen J. Rothenberg, María-Fernanda Flores, Sandra Martínez, Carmen Hernández, Erica Osorio, and Estela Perroni, Blood Lead Secular Trend in a Cohort of Children in Mexico City (1987–2002), Environ. Health. Perspect. 112(10): 1110–1115. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  17. Paulino Pino, Tomás Walter, Manuel J. Oyarzún, Matthew J. Burden, and Betsy Lozoff, Rapid Drop in Infant Blood Lead Levels during the Transition to Unleaded Gasoline Use in Santiago, Chile, Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal. 59 (4): 182–187.
  18. EPA, Comments of the Gasoline Additive MMT, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  19. CVMA, Final Report: Effects of MMT in Gasoline on Emissions from On-Road Motor Vehicles in Canada, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  20. Afton Chemical, History of mmt®. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  21. EPA, Removal of Reformulated Gasoline Oxygen Content Requirement (national) and Revision of Commingling Prohibition to Address Non-0xygenated Reformulated Gasoline (national), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  22. U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fueling Station Locator. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  23. Sheree Cairney, Petrol Sniffing Fact File, ABC AU. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  24. BP, Fuel technology. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  25. Michael Renner, Analysis: Nano Hypocrisy? World Watch Institute. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  26. Energy Information Administration, International Petroleum (Oil) Consumption. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  27. Earth Trends, Motor gasoline consumption Units: Million liters, Energy and Resources—Transportation. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  28. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Prime Supplier Sales Volumes of Petroleum Products. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  29. Alpha Rubicon, Fuel storage practices. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  30. PER Notebook, Stale Gasoline Problems.
  31. 31.0 31.1 EP patent 0534668 Stabilization of gasoline mixtures. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  32. US patent 3994698 Gasoline additive concentrate composition. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  33. A1 AU patent 2000/72399 A1 Gasoline test kit. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  34. Xavier Navarro, Got some biodiesel you can't use? Convert it to gasoline with Biolene, AutoblogGreen. Retrieved September 9, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Blume, David, R., Buckminster (FWS) Fuller, and Michael Winks. 2007. Alcohol Can Be a Gas!: Fueling an Ethanol Revolution for the 21st Century. Santa Cruz, CA: International Institute for Ecological Agriculture. ISBN 0979043772.
  • Conaway, Charles F. The Petroleum Industry: A Nontechnical Guide. Tulsa, OK: PennWell, 1999. ISBN 978-0878147632
  • Hyne, Norman J. Nontechnical Guide to Petroleum Geology, Exploration, Drilling, and Production, 2nd ed. Tulsa, OK: PennWell, 2001. ISBN 087814823X.
  • McCain, William D. The Properties of Petroleum Fluids. Tulsa, OK: PennWell, 1989. ISBN 0878143351.
  • McKetta, John J. Jr. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Chemical Processing and Design: Volume 31—Natural Gas Liquids and Natural Gasoline to Offshore Process Piping: High Performance Alloys ... of Chemical Processing and Design. CR Press, 1989. ISBN 082472481X.
  • Meyers, Robert A. Handbook of Petroleum Refining Processes, 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill Handbooks. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. ISBN 0071391092.
  • Wendel, C.H. American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1999. ISBN 0760307849.

External links

All links retrieved April 17, 2024.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.