UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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The gas we power our cars and jets with has a very high “energy density.” Many people are surprised to hear just how powerful this non-renewable natural resource really is. So, you know that a gallon of gas will fuel your car for 15-30 miles, but what else can a gallon of gas do?
How Gas is Made
After petroleum is pumped from the ground, it is distilled and converted into what we would recognize as motor oil. Several products are separated out of this refined oil, including aviation and automobile gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, solvents, lubricants, grease, asphalt and kerosene.
Chemical Composition of Gasoline
Gasoline is comprised of thousands of different chemical compounds depending on where the petroleum was extracted. Generally, however, gasoline is composed nearly entirely of hydrocarbons, with six to 12 carbon and 14 to 26 hydrogen atoms in each molecule. Thus, the range of chemical composition of gasoline’s hydrocarbons is C6H14 to C12H26.
In addition to hydrocarbons, gasoline often has small quantities of other elements such as oxygen, trace metals, sulfur and nitrogen.
When it burns, gasoline produces carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O) and energy. Although energy amounts vary, typically, a gallon of gasoline produces the equivalent of 118,000,000 joules, 32,000 watt-hours or 112,000 BTUs. When you consider that a gallon of liquefied natural gas produces only 75,000,000 joules, 21,000 watt-hours or 71,100 BTUs, gasoline is clearly a far more powerful energy source.
The Power of Gasoline
Charging Your iPhone5
It has been estimated that an iPhone 5 requires 9.5 watt-hours each day to charge. At that rate, one gallon of gasoline would charge the phone 3368 days, or every day for over nine years! The liquefied natural gas, no slouch, doesn’t even come close with only 2211 days, or six years.
Roasting a Turkey
Since Americans eat over 45 million turkeys each year, this flightless friend of the Pilgrims is considered by many as the official national bird of the U.S. In the average electric oven, it takes about 17,600 watt hours to properly roast the typical bird. So, depending on the size of your Tom and your gasoline, you could properly cook nearly two turkeys on a gallon of gasoline. With liquefied natural gas, you’d be lucky to get one cooked-through.
Powering Up a Light Saber
A bored associate professor of physics has determined that a lightsaber (Qui Gon’s to be precise) would require 56,000 watt-hours of energy to operate properly. Here on Earth, a well-equipped Jedi would need to keep 1.75 gallons of gasoline or 2.67 gallons of liquid natural gas on hand in order to properly defend the Republic.
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to replace gasoline with an alternative energy is that the high energy density of gasoline makes its efficiency hard to beat. Until we do find a suitable and sustainable alternative fuel source, individuals will continue to find creative ways to curb their personal gas consumption. Do you part to conserve our fuel and our environment by taking advantage of these money-saving tips and other conservation advice.