Fuels and Society: 6. Supplying Gasoline from Oil
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|6. Supplying Gasoline
The market for kerosene lamp fuel was around 200 million gallons at the end of 1870, and it grew to about 500 million by 1900. But this amount was still only a fraction of what would be required for the new automobile markets within two decades.
The amount of highly volatile gasoline found in crude oil varies from 10 to 30 percent, although this percentage can be increased with extra refining. Kerosene is a less volatile component of crude petroleum. And at the bottom of the distillation pot you find fuel oil, motor oil, grease, waxes and other lower volatility components.
In the early days of the oil industry, kerosene was the premium product and gasoline was a troublesome byproduct of petroleum refineries. Sometimes it was burned off or just dumped on a field or down a river. It was called gasoline because it could vaporized so easily. Some people in the oil industry hoped that it would be used by the coal gas systems being built in most cities and towns, but thogh the fuel was highly volatile it condensed to a liquid too easily, which caused problems in gas systems.
Automotive inventors in the late 1800s saw this easy vaporization as a definite advantage because what they wanted was a liquid fuel that could provide an explosive air-fuel mixture for the internal combustion engine.
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