Published: Jan 1948
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This paper attempts to present a general picture of the past trends and present factors involved in finding, producing and refining petroleum, and in the utilization of motor gasoline. The economic utilization of petroleum for transportation is not solely a problem of producing high octane number fuels and adapting engines to use these fuels, but is one which also involves the economics of the entire petroleum industry. If the automotive and petroleum industries are to perform their duty to society, engines and fuels must be provided which will result in the most economical transportation with the lowest consumption of our natural resources. In reviewing technical publications on this subject, one finds that various trends in fuel quality have been supported from time to time which, when summarized, indicate that fuels will become more volatile, less volatile, higher in antiknock quality, lower in antiknock quality. Most of these predictions were given in good faith and represented the trends existing at the time. An example can be given to indicate the effect of new developments on these trends. When thermal cracking had reached what appeared to be the final stage of development a few years ago, the maximum octane number level was rather low. However, with the advent of catalytic cracking the petroleum industry developed another tool which has made possible the production of a larger percentage of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil at a higher octane number level than could be attained by thermal cracking. Another factor, which has often been overlooked, has a material effect on the quality of the individual products. This factor is the dependency of one product upon another. Petroleum refining today must not be looked upon as a unit that makes gasoline and lubricating oils only, but rather as a highly technical operation that refines and manufactures products as light as methane through gasoline, solvents, fuel oils, lubricating oils, asphalts and petroleum coke, to say nothing of numerous specialty products. In such an operation the national resources of natural gas, crude petroleum, and coal can be processed to furnish these products. In order that the most efficient consumption will result, engineers in the industries that manufacture equipment to consume these products must cooperate and understand the economics of both the refining and the consumption. This paper reviews the present state of the art in the petroleum industry for the production of gasoline and outlines some of the steps that must be considered to obtain its most economical utilization.
Holaday, W. M.
Director, Division of Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., Inc., New York, N. Y.