When transporting loads of crude oil, it’s helpful to be able to calculate the weight of your cargo to comply with weight regulations. Since a gallon is a measure of volume and not weight, how much does a gallon of crude oil weigh?
How much does a gallon of oil weigh? The weight of crude oil ranges from 6.5 lbs/US gal to 8.5 lbs/US gal as crude oil ranges in grade from light to heavy. Since the weight of the oil is also affected by changes in temperature, the petroleum industry uses measurements that account for those changes.
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A supertanker has a deadweight capacity of over 75,000 tons. The first of the supertankers, the SS Universe Leader, was built in 1956. She had 52 tanks in all and could hold over 1,300,000 gallons total (source).
Modern supertankers, like the very large crude carrier (VLCC) class, are able to hold an estimated 84 million gallons or 2 million barrels of crude oil for every 318,000 metric tons. Ultra-large crude carriers, or ULCCs, which weigh up to 550,000 deadweight tons, can carry up to 4 million barrels (source).
Barrels and Drums per Metric Ton
In contrast to the American Stock Exchange, which measures oil in barrels, the European Stock Exchange reports the volume of oil in metric tons. If you know the API gravity of the oil carried, you can calculate the rough amount of barrels per metric ton. You simply add 131.5 to the API gravity and divide by the product of 141.5 and 0.159.
Going back to our benchmarks, we get 7.6 barrels per metric ton for West Texas Intermediate, 7.54 barrels for Brent Crude, and 7.22 barrels for Dubai Crude. Using 55-gallons drums, we get 5.8, 5.76, and 5.5 for every metric ton, respectively.
For heavy crude oil with an API range of 25 API to 10, we get 6.96 barrels per metric ton to 6.29 barrels per metric ton or 5.31 to 4.80 drums.
As you can see, the weight of a gallon of oil is directly dependant on its grade as measured by the oil’s API gravity. The higher the oil’s API gravity, the lighter the oil is, and the higher its value is. Lighter oils produce higher levels of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, which is why they command such a high price.
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While the threshold standards between light, medium, and heavy crude vary widely, established by the Louisiana DNR is one of the most frequently cited. On average, a gallon of extra light crude will weigh 6.65 lbs/US gal, light crude 7.03 lbs/US gal, medium crude 7.398 lbs/US gal, heavy crude 8 lbs/US gal, and extra heavy crude will weigh about 8.5 lbs/US gal.