Generic Gasoline?


When I was a child, I remember the tankers that would refill the underground tanks in service stations. Gulf stations had Gulf trucks, Sinclair had Sinclair tankers, Texaco had Texaco trucks and so on. Today all I see are unmarked tankers. So, is most of our gasoline going to the stations just generic gasoline and distributed by the different companies or just what am I burning in my car when I go to BP or Shell or one of the major companies?


Product sharing between oil companies has been going on for a long time. Transportation of liquid fuels, however is now more and more contracted out to third parties, who usually have unmarked trucks.

As refineries have grown larger and consolidated, product “swapping” as it is called is now commonplace. There are tight specifications set by the EPA and the American Petroleum Institute as to the composition of gasoline. It’s the additives that make them different, but not that different!

So you might say that gasoline has become a generic product. And that’s probably a good thing.


Actually, gasoline is sent from refineries to distribution points throughout the country through pipes. Different refineries share the same pipelines on a “rental” basis. Volume is purchased by gasoline companies at the local “distribution point” end of the pipeline. Additives are added by the various companies at the truck pickup point, and, as Doc said, the science is such now that they’re all pretty much the same. As a matter of fact independents buy their additive packages from the refineries, who are really the only ones with the huge resources necessary to develop these additives.

Interestingly, different grades (regular, premium, are pumped through the same pipes. Amounts are measured ingoing at the refinery and by measuring the amounts out the truck can tell what they’re getting. Separating plugs called “pigs” used to be used, but the systems are so precise now that they o longer use them. Yes, there is some cross mixing, but the dilution is so great and there’s so much latitude in the grades/ performance that the mixing is inconsequential.

I got this info from a one hour educational special that was done some months ago on PBS. Much of it a huge surprize.


i love moose too, much more tender than venison. any way about your post.

i haul gasoline from new york to new haven ct, providence ri, boston ma, and portland me.

often when we leave the customer is (just for example) exxon mobil. but half way to our destination it becomes gulf. or visa versa. sometimes it changes customers two or three times on a trip. so mountain bikes explanation is true, and it also applies to gas in the truck at the station.

the additives (system 3, mobil detergent, etc etc.) are a bunch of hooey as far as i’m concerned. the posted octane ratings are the important stuff. (87, 89, 91 93)

i am more concerned with the cleanliness of the gasoline than the brand. it is important for the stations to change the filters on the pumps regularly, have clean tanks, and not get water into the tanks too. look around the station you fill up at. is it clean? (what you cant see is harder to judge than what you can see) if it is outwardly dirty, how clean do you think they keep the tanks, pumps, or filters?