Gasoline is a transparent, petroleum-derived liquid that is used primarily as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. On average, a 42-gallon barrel of crude oil (159 L) yields about 19 US gallons (72 L) of gasoline when processed in an oil refinery, though this varies based on the crude oil source's assay.
Gasoline is a blend of hydrocarbons with some contaminants, including sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and certain metals. The four major constituent groups of gasoline are olefins, aromatics, paraffins, and napthenes. Octane number (ON) is measure of the ignition quality or flammability of gasoline. The ONs are Research Octane Number (RON) and Motor Octane Number (MON). RON is measured relative to a mixture of isooctane and n-heptane.
The characteristic of a particular gasoline blend to resist igniting too early (which causes knocking and reduces efficiency in reciprocating engines) is measured by its octane rating. Gasoline is produced in several grades of octane rating. Tetraethyllead and other lead compounds are no longer used in most areas to regulate and increase octane-rating, but many other additives are put into gasoline to improve its chemical stability, control corrosiveness and provide fuel system 'cleaning,' and determine performance characteristics under intended use. Sometimes, gasoline also contains ethanol as an alternative fuel, for economic, political or environmental reasons.