How Fuel Is Made From Crude Oil

We use it every time we start our vehicles and spend a fortune on the stuff, yet most of us wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to how it’s made, let alone that it’s made from crude oil. This article is here to explain how fuel is changed from its natural state to the fuel we pump into our vehicles at the local petrol station. 

Where it all begins

It all begins with crude oil – a black substance made up of what people in white coats call hydrocarbons. Crude oil is basically the remains of plants and sea creatures that died millions of years ago. As time went on, these fossilised remains - hence the term 'fossil fuels' - were buried under sediment, slowly forming rock. After millions of years the fossilised remains are slowly ‘cooked’, turning it into the black liquid we recognise as crude oil. Crude oil is then drilled out from under the sea by giant drills that burrow down to where it has become trapped. 

How do companies know where to drill?

This is the million dollar question. When oil is seeping through permeable rock on land, it can be relatively easy to spot. But with 70% of the earth covered by water, searching for crude oil is going to take a while. Sniffer equipment can be used to find traces of natural gas in seawater, but this only works if the oil is escaping its sediment prison. Oil companies typically use two main search methods - magnetic survey and seismic surveying.  These two methods help determine where it is possible that crude oil may be located under the sea. 

Developing fuel from crude oil

Now that there is a base fuel (crude oil) it's time to start to make fuel more effective. This involves development.  Coming up with a new blend of materials and then putting it through its paces. A typical development process would involve extensive testing in a laboratory, then in engines and vehicles - resulting in the winning blend being identified and defined. 

Testing the different blends

Eventually a mixed blend is made to be tested in a vehicle testing lab that can adjust temperature between extremes of hot and cold. This is done in a controlled environment using measuring systems.  To keep the testing fair - the team that performs these tests is small. New fuels are wheeled in by the barrel load without anyone having a clue as to what blend is inside. This keeps the sample testing controlled, making the results more accurate.

How long does the fuel process take?

You may be surprised that fuel takes so much effort to design, but each ingredient could be mixed in an almost infinite number of proportions ─  therefore the effect it has on your engine, the environment, cost of production may all be affected by different blends. Unsurprisingly, all that effort can be frustrating for those who spend their lives looking for that one of a kind blend.

Find out more

Find out more

How does diesel compare?

Diesel, which gets its name from German engineer Rudolf Diesel, is made in a very similar way to petrol. The only difference is extra filtration is needed to reduce sulphur content and remove other unnecessary pollutants.

Is it time to put this magical blend in my car?

Once a fuel blend is given the okay it is then shipped around the world and driven by truck to petrol stations around the world. All you have to do is fill up and you are ready to go. 

Extra Random Fact: Cars/trucks can also use renewable fuels like bio diesel (made from algae) or for petrol powered vehicles a petrol/ethanol (alcohol from cane or beet sugar) mixture. 

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