Hey All!

Second times the charm!

So I just had one of those seriously disheartening things happen to me. 
I had just finished a huge blog post about gasoline and where it comes from, how it's made and who first used it, and then the system logged me out as I was going through and making sure it looked perfect... sigh...

So let's start again! 

So what is gasoline anyway?

Well apparently it's a byproduct of crude oil refinery. 

That of course begs the question, What is crude oil and where does it come from?

You may already be familiar with the big oil rigs that are all over the world that pump oil out of the ground, but what exactly is oil?

The crude oil we find in the ground is the byproduct of a huge amount of biological material such as plankton, dinosaurs and other animals that were buried quickly in sandstone (sandstone is literally sand that has been compressed into stone... obviously...) and through heat, pressure and an anoxic environment (anoxic means that there is no oxygen, because if oxygen was present, all the biological material would decay) it converts first into a waxy material called kerogen. as time, pressure and heat continue, the keragen goes through the process of catagenesis, which transforms the material into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.  In order for oil to form, the mixture must achieve a temperature that geologists refer to as the "oil window." Otherwise, it remains in its kerogen state. 

So that's where crude oil comes from, now onto how gasoline is made.

Crude oil is converted to gasoline through a relatively simple refining process. The transformation begins with the extraction of oil from the ground (we will get into this in a little bit), after which it is usually loaded into large container ships that deliver it to refineries all over the world. As any viewer of news footage has seen, crude oil emerges as a thick black substance, which does not resemble the clear and free-flowing gas used in motor vehicles. This is because crude oil is actually a mixture of hydrocarbons.

The process is both simple and complex at the same time. The simple explanation is that it's boiled to separate the various hydrocarbons from each other. The complex part is all the steps and parts that are needed in order to be successful in the process.

Wisegeek has an indepth article that explains it all and can be read HERE.

Interestingly, scientists have been able to make crude oil and refine it in the lab in an hour. Seems like a great way to fix the "Energy Crisis" that we don't really hear about anymore... funny how that works... Anyway, read more about that HERE.

So that's what crude oil is and how it's refined into gasoline, but who first thought of using gas to power vehicles? 

Well, it turns out that various forms of Gas were used throughout England in the late 1700's and early 1800's to light their street lamps. There were a number of factories that competed for business, and some even used crude oil and some of the other hydrocarbon derivatives. 

Wikipedia has an exhaustive article about the history of Manufactured Fuel Gases HERE.

If you've never heard of Edwin Laurentine Drake, or better known as Colonel Drake, I wouldn't hold it against you
He's important because he revolutionized the way that crude oil is extracted from the ground. 
He started out by working on the railroad first as a clerk then express agent and finally a conductor. After retiring due to illness, he retained his riding privileges.

According to Wikipedia:

While petroleum oil was known prior to this time, there was no appreciable market for it. Samuel Martin Kier is credited with founding the first American oil refinery in Pittsburgh. He was the first person in the United States to refine crude oil into lamp oil (kerosene). Along with a new lamp to burn Kier's product, a new market to replace whale oil as a lamp oil began to develop.


Seneca Oil, originally called the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, was founded by George Bissell and Jonathan Eveleth. They created the company after hearing of reports that petroleum collected from an oil spring in Titusville, Pennsylvania was suitable for use as lamp fuel. Until this time, the primary lamp fuel had been whale oil. Bissell found that the "rock oil" would be a practical alternative if a method could be devised to extract the oil from the ground. Interest in the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company was initially low until a report commissioned by Bissell and Eveleth showed that there was significant economic value in petroleum. Due to a disagreement between the shareholders and the pair, the company was split and Seneca Oil was formed in 1858. Before being offered a job by Bissell and Eveleth, Drake bought stock in Seneca Oil. But his job opportunity with the company arose because both parties were staying in the same hotel in Titusville. He was hired on a salary of $1,000 a year to investigate the oil seeps on land owned by Seneca Oil.


Edwin Drake was hired by the Seneca Oil Company to investigate suspected oil deposits in Titusville, Pennsylvania. James Townsend, President of the Seneca Oil Company, sent Drake to the site in the spring of 1858. The oil company chose the retired railway man partly because he had free use of the rail. Drake decided to drill in the manner of salt well drillers. He purchased a steam engine in Erie, Pennsylvania, to power the drill. The well was dug on an island on the Oil Creek. It took some time for the drillers to get through the layers of gravel. At 16 feet (5 m) the sides of the hole began to collapse. Those helping him began to despair, but not Drake. It was at this point that he devised the idea of a drive pipe. This cast iron pipe consisted of 10-foot-long (3.0 m) joints. The pipe was driven down into the ground. At 32 feet (10 m) they struck bedrock. The drilling tools were now lowered through the pipe and steam was used to drill through the bedrock. The drilling, however, was slow. Progress was made at the rate of just three feet per day. After initial difficulty locating the necessary parts to build the well, which resulted in his well being nicknamed "Drake's Folly", Drake proved successful.


Ultimately, he did get the oil out of the ground and quickly revolutionized the way that everyone else did it. 
Unfortunately, as these stories go, Drake didn't have a great business acumen and ultimately wound up broke before he died. 
He is buried with his wife in Titusville, next to a memorial built in his honor.

As for the first person to build a true gas-powered automobile, that honor would go to Siegfried Marcus.

About 1870, in Vienna, Austria (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), inventor Siegfried Marcus put a liquid-fuelled internal combustion engine on a simple handcart which made him the first man to propel a vehicle by means of gasoline. Today, this car is known as "the first Marcus car". In 1883, Marcus secured a German patent for a low-voltage ignition system of the magneto type; this was his only automotive patent. This design was used for all further engines, and the four-seat "second Marcus car" of 1888/89. This ignition, in conjunction with the "rotating-brush carburetor", made the second car's design very innovative. His second car is on display at the Technical Museum in Vienna. During his lifetime he was honored as the originator of the motorcar but his place in history was all but erased by the Nazis during World War II. Because Marcus was of Jewish descent, the Nazi propaganda office ordered his work to be destroyed, his name expunged from future textbooks, and his public memorials removed, giving credit instead to Karl Benz.

Ah the NAZIs, changing history as it happens... 

Meanwhile in America in 1892, a farmer by the name of John Froelich got annoyed with the way his steam powered tractor was bulky and hard to maneuver and thought that he could create a better engine design. Working with his blacksmith, they developed a vertical one-cylinder engine mounted on the running gear of a steam tractor engine and developed parts to make it all work together.  Soon Froelich and his crew were using it to thresh 72,000 bushels of small grain.

Froelich and some businessmen immediately formed a company to manufacture the “Froelich Tractor.”  The company was named The Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company where John was the president.  The efforts to sell the tractor failed.  Only 2 were sold and then shortly returned.  The company stayed in operation by manufacturing stationary gas engines while tractor experiments continued.  In 1895 Froelich left the company as his interest was in tractors, not stationary engines.  The Waterloo Company continued development and had developed  a few successful models by 1914.  With the rise of farm prices, the demand for mechanical farm power became popular which spurred many pop up tractor manufacturers.

Deere and Company, a manufacturer of a full line of John Deere implements had been watching the company and was looking for an established farm tractor to round out its line.  In 1918 The Waterloo Company was purchased by John Deere.

Back in Germany, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart in 1889 designed a vehicle from scratch to be an automobile, rather than a horse-drawn carriage fitted with an engine. They also are usually credited with invention of the first motorcycle in 1886, but Italy's Enrico Bernardi of the University of Padua, in 1882, patented a 0.024 horsepower (17.9 W) 122 cc (7.4 cu in) one-cylinder petrol motor, fitting it into his son's tricycle, making it at least a candidate for the first automobile and first motorcycle. Bernardi later enlarged the tricycle in 1892 to carry two adults.

As Americans, we probably didn't realize that combustion engine designs were available in the late 1800's(I know I'm in that category)  We have been taught that the Model T by Henry Ford was one of the first. It was really just the first truly affordable production model that used gasoline.

The Ford Model T (colloquially known as the Tin Lizzie, Flivver and Mrelm) was an automobile produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from 1908 through 1927. The Model T set 1908 as the historic year that the automobile came into popular usage. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that "put America on wheels"; some of this was because of Ford's innovations, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting, as well as the concept of paying the workers a wage proportionate to the cost of the car, so that they would provide a ready made market. The first production Model T was built on September 27, 1908, at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.

Yay Detroit!

Henry Ford was one of the big names that put Detroit on the map and forever changed the way that vehicles are made at the same time.

So there you go!

In only a little over 200 years, we've gone from horse and buggys to race cars, Motocross bikes and space shuttles. 

All because somebody a long time ago saw some oil bubbling out of the ground and found that it could burn pretty well. 
Well, that's my theory anyway. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed (re)writing it. 

There's always time to learn something new!

Se ya soon!

Image by Joey Bennett from Pixabay

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