Distillation profile

Gasoline is a complex mixture of different hydrocarbons with different properties. Consequently, when heated, different components will vaporize at different temperatures. How much gasoline vaporizes at low temperatures (front-end volatility), medium temperatures (mid-range volatility), and high temperatures (tail-end volatility) will affect performance across a wide range of dimensions and is known as the distillation profile of the fuel.

The performance affected includes:

  • Front-end volatility (low temperatures):
    • Cold start
    • Hot start
    • Avoiding vapor lock
    • Minimizing evaporative emissions
  • Mid-range volatility (medium temperatures):
    • Achieving quick warm up
    • Fuel efficiency on short trips
    • Good power and acceleration
    • Avoiding carburetor icing
    • Avoiding hot stalling
  • Tail-end volatility (high temperatures):
    • Fuel efficiency after warm up
    • Avoiding engine deposits
    • Minimizing dilution of crankcase oil
    • Minimizing VOC emissions

Distillation properties are typically measured as the temperatures of initial boiling, at specific volume percent recovery (5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 95%), and end point or final volume recovery.

The Refinery Reference Desk includes content derived from our industry experts as well as from public data sources such as company websites. Nothing herein is intended to serve as investment advice. This material is based on information that we believe to be reliable and adequately comprehensive, but we do not represent that such information is in all respects accurate or complete. McKinsey Energy Insights does not accept any liability for any losses resulting from use of the content.



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