With continuous information in the media about rising or falling oil prices, fuel and gasoline prices, and the price per barrel of crude oil, it can sometimes be confusing to understand the difference between oil and gasoline. To help further the confusion, both are surrounded by many related terms that are sometimes used incorrectly. Understanding the individual properties of oil and gas and how they relate to one another will make it easier to understand the difference between them.
When oil is referred to in the company of gasoline, crude oil is specifically what is intended. Crude or unrefined oil is also called petroleum. Petroleum is a naturally occurring liquid fossil fuel made up of multiple hydrocarbons and other organic compounds that can be found in rock formations of the Earth’s surface. Crude oil isn’t useful until it is refined into different products. Oil is extracted from the ground with wells and sent to a refinery where the hydrocarbons are separated during distillation and other chemical processes. After the oil is distilled, it is used to make a variety of petroleum derivatives with fuel derivatives being the most common.
The major difference between oil and gasoline is the fact that gasoline is a fuel derivative of oil. Its name is shortened to “gas” in the United States and called “petrol,” which is shortened from “petroleum spirits,” in other places around the world. Other fuel derivatives of oil are ethane, diesel fuel, jet fuel, kerosene, and natural gas. In addition to fuels, refined oil is also used to make olefins, lubricants, wax, sulfur or sulfuric acid, tar, asphalt, and many other products.
More specifically, gasoline is a liquid petroleum derivative that is primarily used as fuel in internal combustion engines. It is produced in oil refineries; however, this kind of virgin gas does not meet the specifications for modern engines. Generally speaking, today’s gasoline is made of a mixture of three different derivatives: paraffin, napthenes, and olefins. The ratios of the mixture depend on the oil refinery doing the processing, the crude oil being used and the octane rating of the gasoline that is to be produced, which is the measure of resistance to normal combustion by gasoline.