Gasoline is one of the most popular forms of vehicle fuels in existence but also the lowest quality fuel available. At the end of the nineteenth century, around 6,000,000 barrels of the gasoline that were produced was used as a solvent by the industry. Such uses included chemical plants, dry cleaning establishments, kerosene fuel (used domestically for stoves and space heaters), as well as metallurgical plants.  It was not until 1859 when French engineer, J.J. Etienne Lenoir, built the first double-acting, spark ignition engine that would create a brand new industry.  By 1919, the United States produced 87,500,000 barrels of gasoline and 85% of that production was consumed by automobiles, which consisted of personal cars, trucks, tractors, and motorboats.


Between 1899 and 1919, as demand for gasoline grew, the price increased more than 135 percent, from 10.8 cents/gal to 25.4 cents/gal. From 1929 to 1941, gasoline use by passenger cars increased from 256.7 million barrels to 291.5 million barrels. Consumption of aviation fuel went from only 753,000 barrels in 1929 to over 6.4 million barrels at the start of World War II. By 1941, gasoline accounted for over one-half of petroleum products with 90 percent of gasoline output used as fuel for automotive and aircraft engines.


There are about 42-gallons of crude oil in every barrel that is extracted in its raw form.  Of that, only 19 gallons of crude oil is converted into gasoline.  Raw, or crude, oil is often a dark, sticky liquid that cannot be used in its natural state.  After it is extracted from the ground it is transported to an oil refinery and heated until it boils.  The process of boiling crude oil causes the raw material to separate into different liquids and gases that are captured through various distillation processes.  The liquids that are a byproduct of crude oil include petrol, paraffin, and diesel fuel.


distillation of crude oil


Most gasoline currently sold in the United States is blended with aromatics, ethanol, or some combination of the two to boost its octane rating. The use of aromatics is still controversial, however, due to their toxic and carcinogenic nature.  Aromatics are a mixture of chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and xylene.  Manufacturers added these additives to gasoline as a way of economically boosting its octane level,  Until 1995, lead gasoline served this purpose, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the addition of lead into gasoline because of its highly toxic nature that proved to be harmful to humans.  As a result, aromatics became the replacement material for lead boosting the overall octane level.