The complexity of modern petroleum refining is enough to make your head spin. Think of crude oil like a bowl of punch at a party. There’s a ton of different ingredients inside that work together, and much like a bowl of punch, crude oil has many different components inside of it that we want to capture.
To capture these elements, we have to heat up the crude oil to reach a variety of different boiling points. When certain boiling points are reached, we can then get rid of unwanted elements and toss them to the side. This is called distillation.
Liquid petroleum gas gets burned off at 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and Kerosene follows at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Next is Gas oil and Fuel oil, which are the last components that get separated from crude oil.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because compared to the old ways of refining petroleum, this looks like rocket science written in a different language.
In the 1880’s, the first petroleum refineries were basically just stills–like the ones you might see the moonshiners use on television. We basically just wanted two components back then: kerosene and petroleum grease.
Get this. Whatever products remained from the distillation process–including gasoline–were treated as waste. I guess that’s how we did things back then.
Needless to say, anyone working in petroleum refining back then is probably rolling in their grave at the moment.