Whether you’re idly wondering how petrol gets to your pump or you want to know for more ecological reasons, it’s important to understand where your fuel comes from, especially if you live in the UK: the UK is one of the leading petrol importers in the world and have been since roughly 2005.
Step 1: Refining crude oil
Crude oil is the liquid that is pumped directly from the ground and moved to trucks. It is taken to oil refineries and distilled in a heating chamber to produce petrol, kerosene and other fuels. A waste product that is often collected and sold is an odourless fuel gas sold as Propane.
The liquid directly distilled from crude oil is known as paraffinic naphtha. However, your car will probably not run very well (or for very long) on this fuel. In fact, most petroleum that you buy at the pump is less than 20% paraffinic naphtha!
On its own, paraffinic naphtha burns very poorly and very quickly which makes it somewhat unsuitable as a vehicle fuel.
To make the naphtha into a useable fuel, the oil refinery blend it with other chemicals to increase the purity and chemical burning power of the petrol. You can expect to find everything detergents to lead or even red dye in your fuel.
Step 2: Oxygenate blending
The next step is oxygenate blending. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, it’s likely you will never use it in a conversation unless you are a scientist or discussing the fuel making process. Oxygenate blending uses oxygen to blend the gas mixture and remove a great deal of carbon monoxide. This makes smoother petrol that is better for your tank and for the environment.
The more oxygen in petrol, the less carbon monoxide the petrol produces when burned. This is because the oxygen works to remove the poisonous chemicals from the gas before they are released as fumes. However, if too much oxygen is added to the mix, it won’t burn at all.
Step 3: Testing
After being refined and blended, most petrol is tested to ensure that it follows UK regulations and codes. It must be around 5% ethanol, 2% oxygen and contain enough colorants and chemicals so that it can be easily smelled when spilled.
Petrol is then pumped from the refinery into a truck or carrier that has been certified to carry fuel. Requirements for fuel carriers include that they must be air tight and the body of the tank produced with a minimum thickness shell in order to prevent spillage.
Despite these precautions, fuel spillage and leakage cause more environmental damage each year than the effects of gasoline in cars.
Step 4: Delivery
Trucks and tanks move gasoline from the refinery to either a storage location (usually underground) or directly to a petrol station. From there, the fuel is pumped underground and then available for you to purchase as needed.
In some cases, the actual chemical makeup of your petrol can vary from refinery to refinery. This means that buying petrol at different stations can actually have an impact on your driving performance! Different refineries use different ingredients. Mixes with high paraffin levels have higher octane levels and are usually sold as more expensive petrol.
Content provided on behalf of PassSmart.com, the easiest way to find your UK driving instructor.