Where does gasoline come from? | Fuel Tips

By Staff Writer
May 28, 2022 | Fuel Tips, Sponsored Content, gasoline | Posted in News and Notes | From the June 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David Thielen; Unsplash

Sponsored content presented by Sunoco.

Most of us know where babies come from, but what about gasoline? The answer goes deeper than “the pump,” and understanding the process can help differentiate the various offerings.

  • Step 1: Crude oil is extracted from the ground. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. imported about 8.47 million barrels of petroleum per day during 2021, with 51% of that coming from Canada. Next on the list: Mexico (8%), Russia (8%), Saudi Arabia (5%) and Columbia (2%). According to that same report, during the same time period, the U.S. exported about 8.63 million barrels of oil per day–so the U.S. exports more than it imports. Via some combination of ships, rail cars and pipelines, that crude oil arrives at an American refinery. 
  • Step 2: The crude can now be refined into various fractions, including diesel, kerosene and, yes, gasoline. At this point, the gasoline is still an unbranded commodity, although some additives are added–often antioxidants and corrosion inhibitors.
  • Step 3: Now let’s just follow the path for gasoline. If not bound for export, it will head to a regional terminal–often via pipeline but possibly also by rail car. Each pipeline, notes Zachary J. Santner, senior specialist of quality at Sunoco, can be used to transport different products: A load of gasoline could follow some diesel, with a mixed slug of fluid separating the two. (That slug would then be refined again at a transmix facility, he explains.)
  • Step 4: The magic that separates one brand from another happens at the terminal, Santner continues. “That’s where detergents and other propriety additives are added,” he says. “That’s where a fuel would become Top Tier or not.” Those extra detergents that define a Top Tier fuel, he notes, come at a cost, so not all brands opt for them.
  • Step 5: Trucks then transport the gasoline to the local stations. If you see a gasoline truck on the highway, he notes, it’s doing local deliveries.

But what about race fuel? As a boutique product, Sunoco Race Fuels don’t follow this path, he explains. They’re all brewed in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, to a consistent, controlled recipe and shipped via dedicated containers.

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View comments on the GRM forums
ShiftLess New Reader
5/27/22 3:19 p.m.

That was certainly not very informative... how about some meat with the potatoes!  At least a citation for further reading!

f1carguy New Reader
5/27/22 3:49 p.m.

This is a great website for more answers. The import and export of "oil" is very tricky because of what (crude v. refined) is moving. 

Factors affecting gasoline prices - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

And yes locally ALL the "gas" comes from the same refinery! They just add different color and additives for each brand! Question is why does one gas station sell it for (last week - Daytona) for $ 3.99 while down the street it's $4.59? It's both "top tier"! Greed! I use an app (the buddy one) and plan my route and fillups. Save $5-$10 per fillup X 52 weeks = $ 260 to $ 520 a year!   


I forgot one thing - there is a WAR going on and combined with Covid - all calculations are broken. 

BTW I have a degree in petroleum engineering and worked as a ruff neck on drilling rigs !


BAMF HalfDork
5/27/22 7:13 p.m.

You see, when two dinosaurs really love each other and then get hit by an asteroid....

CAinCA GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/27/22 7:25 p.m.
BAMF said:

You see, when two dinosaurs really love each other and then get hit by an asteroid....


yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/27/22 7:35 p.m.

The real question, where is gas going? crying

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/28/22 8:54 a.m.

In reply to BAMF :

That was the thought for a long time and led to the entire theory of peak oil.  It's a good thing it's not true.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/28/22 8:59 a.m.

In reply to f1carguy :

Cool.  I used to work for a worldwide gas and oil consultant.  If everyone knew how much oil there is in the world and the cost of a barrel of oil in certain parts of the world, people would be even angrier about fuel costs.  The main driver in the cost of a barrel of oil is market speculation and the forborten topic of politics.  Technology needed and drilling sets the base cost but the two previous factors drive prices up and down rapidly and in big swings.  The gasoline producers and stations are always reacting to that.  

Appleseed MegaDork
5/28/22 9:35 a.m.
yupididit said:

The real question, where is gas going? crying

f1carguy New Reader
5/31/22 3:29 p.m.

Oil imports and exports - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

From the website:

Even though U.S. annual total petroleum exports were greater than total petroleum imports in 2020 and 2021, the United States still imported some crude oil and petroleum products from other countries to help to supply domestic demand for petroleum and to supply international markets.

The United States remained a net crude oil importer in 2021, importing about 6.11 million b/d of crude oil and exporting about 2.90 million b/d. However, some of the crude oil that the U.S. imports is refined by U.S. refineries into petroleum products—such as gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel, and jet fuel—that the U.S. exports. Also, some of imported petroleum may be stored and subsequently exported.

So it is not transparent what the oil producers are doing but it looks like funny business to me. We also import low grade crude (lots of sulfur ) from Canada - only to export it and it comes back to us clean and refined!

I can't wait to go all electric! Clean electric from COAL! Haha!

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