From refinery to consumer

After crude oil is refined into gasoline and other petroleum products, the products must be distributed to consumers. Most gasoline is shipped first by pipeline to storage terminals near consuming areas and then loaded into trucks for delivery to individual gas stations.

Gasoline is sent through shared pipelines where commingling occurs

Gasoline and other products are sent through shared pipelines in batches. Since these batches are not physically separated in the pipeline, some mixing or commingling of products occurs. This mixing is why the quality of the gasoline and other products must be tested as the products enter and leave the pipeline to make sure they meet appropriate specifications.

Whenever the products fail to meet local, state, or federal product specifications, they must be removed and trucked back to a refinery for further processing.

A graphic illustration showing the flow of imported crude oil from the tanker to the gas station.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (public domain)

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Can customers find out which country or state the gasoline at a location station comes from?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) cannot definitively say where gasoline at a given gas station originated. EIA does not collect data on the source of the gasoline sold at retail outlets. Purchasing gasoline from a given company does not necessarily mean that the gasoline was actually produced by that company’s refineries.

Gasoline brands get mixed during shipment

Gasoline is sold at more than one hundred thousand retail outlets across the nation, and many are unbranded dealers that may sell gasoline produced by different companies. Branded stations may not necessarily sell gasoline produced by its refineries. This mixing of brands occurs because gasoline from different refineries is often combined for shipment by pipeline, and companies owning service stations in the same area may be purchasing gasoline at the same bulk storage and distribution terminal.

The only difference between the gasoline at station X and the gasoline at station Y may be the small amount of additives that those companies add to the gasoline before it gets to the pump.

Crude oil also gets mixed at the refinery

Even if it was possible to determine which company’s refinery produced the gasoline, the source of the crude oil used at that refinery may vary. Most refiners use a mix of crude oils from various domestic and foreign sources. The mix of crude oils can change based on the relative cost and availability of crude oil from different sources.