How car oil is refined

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The fuel used in a modern car, whether petrol, diesel or even LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas), has to meet high standards of purity if the car's engine is to run smoothly.

Extracting fuel from crude oil

Extracting fuel from crude oil

Crude oil is broken down into its constituent hydrocarbons inside a fractionating column. Lighter hydrocarbons, including petrol, are tapped off high up the column while heavier ones, such as diesel, separate out lower down.

Modern fuels have to be sufficiently volatile to ignite quickly, even under adverse conditions, and they have to have the correct blend of hydrocarbons to burn evenly enough to develop useful power in an internal combustion engine. The fuel must also have the right octane value to prevent pinking (detonating too early) which can cause engine damage.

Internal combustion engines are tailored to run on a particular grade of fuel and tuned to run quite close to the limits which that fuel can support, so consistent quality is important in modern fuels.