Friday, October 30, 2009

The Complexity of Gasoline and Future Changes

People know that they need gasoline to make their vehicles run. Most also realize that this fuel is highly flammable but beyond these two major facts, very little is known about gasoline. The complexity of blending gasoline to fit the needs of the evolving combustible engine is just mind-boggling.

Where Gasoline Comes From

Gasoline begins as crude oil found deep below the earth's surface. After the crude is brought to the surface by drilling and pumping, a distillation process is performed where the crude is refined into virgin or straight-run gasoline. This process takes place at a refinery where not all gasoline comes out with the same chemical characteristics as another. This difference depends on the crude oil (there are different types of crude) and the type of processing unit at each refinery. Even now, the gasoline is nowhere close to being fit to use in our cars.

The Production Cycle of Gasoline for Vehicles

The virgin gasoline has to now be blended with hydrocarbons plus a host of other necessary hazardous chemicals. Benzene, toluene, naphthalene, trimethylbenzene, TPBE, and others are carefully measured into the mixture to protect the internal parts of our cars. The engine is a mechanical marvel but only when gasoline has been properly blended, do our cars work properly. Even now, the gas is not pure enough to support the intake valves, combustion chambers and fuel injectors found in the top end of the engine of vehicles. Detergents must be added to complete these blends.

Gasoline Seasonal Price Changes

Cars are run in all types of weather. We may think that the gasoline is the same old stuff year round but it is not. Have you ever noticed a price fluctuation right before summer and another right before winter? Refineries are switching from summer to winter gas, or vice versa, and this switch costs lots of money. The pipelines have to be cleared completely before a different grade of fuel can be brought in. This may cause shortages or overages of fuel, affecting the price.

What Is Summer and Winter Gas?

Even though our cars may warm up the running of the fuel in our engines in cold weather as opposed to warm weather, the gasoline must have the ability to evaporate quickly to fire in the combustion chamber of vehicles. While we want the fuel on top to evaporate quickly, we want to keep it as liquid in the gas tank. The warmer months provide heat that is necessary to cause evaporation to start our cars but in the winter months, there is no warmth under our hoods. A molecular change is made to winter gas to help start the engine of your cars easier and protect the internal parts.

More Processes and Additives of Gasoline

We have not even touched on the complexity of other processes used in making gasoline. Other methods are also used in making gasoline to stretch our gasoline supply for cars such as polymerization that can make molecules in the structure larger; alkylation combines olefin and a paraffin based substance; isomerization that converts straight-lines hydrocarbons to branch-lines hydrocarbons; and reforming that totally rearranges a molecular structure. Of course, there is also ethanol and individual state required special blends and detergents to help control pollution but that's a whole other story.

Can the Gasoline Complexity and Price ever End?

Alternative fuel cars are hitting the streets hard with the newest and freshest ideas ever for fuel free vehicles. Sweden has already declared to be fossil fuel free with their cars by the year 2030. Hydrogen vehicles, or hydro cars, are an example of what manufacturers are looking to in the future by using hydrogen to react with oxygen to produce water and electricity that actually powers cars and trucks and buses. Electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are also being studied and tested with promising results. In addition to being totally free from exhaust, these two different types of vehicles use absolutely no gasoline. This may sound like a story from Mars but who would have believed that we could have come up with such an extravagant system of fuel for our cars? Complexity seems to be the norm these days and one-day gasoline will be replaced with another just as extreme.

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