Here’s how some average guys made gas from crude oil.
“There were many oil wells in the area, and anyone who wanted oil felt free to help themselves. The price was so low that it barely paid the operators to pump it, and they didn’t care if you took a few barrels for your own use. The process of making gasoline from oil was pretty well known among those in the area. It was quite simple. Heat the oil in an enclosed container, and condense the vapor by running it through a coolant.
My dad and I built a small dirt tank about a half mile from the house, and before making the dam we ran a 1″ pipe through it. On the low side of the dam, we dug a hole large enough for a five gallon can. This is where the fuel would come out. Above the tank we placed a fifty-five gallon barrel on some rocks and fitted the pipe to the vent hole in the top. When it rained and filled our new tank, we were ready to start refining.
Two fifteen gallon barrels were filled with fresh oil and poured in the barrel. Then we started the fire about it. Before long fumes began to come out of the pipe below the dam, and shortly thereafter the gasoline began to run out in a small stream. The first that came out was very high in octane, and would evaporate from your finger as soon as you dipped it in the mixture. But as it continued to distill, it became less volatile. We found from experience that the first ten gallons that we got made good automobile fuel, and that the next six or eight gallons was composed of varying grades of kerosene. But all of it mixed together made excellent tractor fuel. After the first batch, we used the residue to fuel a fire for the next cooking. Because of the heat involved, we never made more than once a day.
This process continued for many months.”