No, geologically speaking, gasoline is not a mineral. It is not solid, the chemical composition varies, and it does not exist in nature without the involvement of humans.
However, for the purpose of establishing who has rights to gasoline (like oil or natural gas), the analysis is quite different.
In the article that follows, we’ll first explain what the requirements are (geologically speaking) for a material to be considered a mineral.
Then we’ll talk briefly about gasoline as a mineral right.
Five Requirements To Be Considered a Mineral
It is pretty common for legal documents and even case precedent to make the conclusion that gasoline is a mineral, along with petroleum oil or natural gas.
These materials are extremely valuable, and the courts are often called upon to make determinations of what a material should be considered as it relates to who should have rights to it.
But geologically speaking, to be considered a mineral, a material or substance must meet all five of the following criteria:
- The substance occurs naturally in nature.
- The substance is a solid.
- The substances is inorganic.
- The substances has a consistent chemical composition
- The atoms in the material are arranged in an orderly and consistent manner.
In the next section, we’ll explain which of these requirements that gasoline meets and fails.
Gasoline Does Not Occur Naturally Without Humans
Gasoline is a refined product of petroleum. It is a mixture of hydrocarbons, additives, and blending agents. (source) There may be as many as 150-1000 compounds in a brand of gasoline.
Humans determine what goes in to the product.
While petroleum exists in nature, gasoline obviously does not. This is the first reason why gasoline cannot be considered a mineral.
Gasoline Is a Liquid
The state of gasoline is a liquid, though the top layer of molecules tend to quickly escape into gas. To be a mineral, the material or substance must be a solid.
This is another reason why gasoline cannot be considered a mineral.
Gasoline is Organic vs Inorganic?
Gasoline is a mixture of hundreds of even thousands of substances.
Chemically speaking, a substance is considered organic if it contains C-H (carbon to hydrogen) chemical bonds.
Gasoline does contain organic substances with C-H bonds, though in varying degrees.
It might bother you to think of gasoline as an organic substance in any way. We like to think of organic as being clean and pesticide/chemical free. Gasoline is full of chemicals, and far from the fresh fruits and vegetables you see at the store.
But it does contain organic compounds.
Does this mean it is organic? If the definition of organic is “contains some C-H bonds” then yes.
Gasoline Does Not Have A Consistent Chemical Composition
Gasoline as a substance differs dramatically depending on where it is produced. It is also a mixture, meaning that the elements of it (the ingredients) are not chemically bonded to each other.
This means that the elements/ingredients can be separated, and it is difficult for the substance to be 100% homogeneous throughout.
Because gasoline does not have a consistent chemical composition, it cannot be considered a mineral. (This is a reason why concrete is also not considered a mineral).
The Atoms in Gasoline Are Not Arranged In A Consistent Orderly Manner
Gasoline is not a solid. The molecules move around freely, and often escape into the gaseous phase. How the molecules (and the atoms that make them) are arranged varies dramatically, depending upon the formula and also even the temperature of the liquid.
While it would help if gasoline was a solid, not all solids pass this requirement, with wood being a good example (not orderly).
This is yet another reason why gasoline is not considered a mineral.
But What About Court Opinions On the Question of: Is Gasoline a Mineral?
For obvious reasons, do the research in your own jurisdiction about what qualifies as a mineral if you are in the middle of a legal dispute, or contact a qualified attorney on the topic.
The interesting about court cases is that just because a court says it, doesn’t mean that it is truth scientifically.
For example, in a Pennsylvania Court case in a dispute that arose about 15 years ago about natural gas on a piece of property, part of the court’s determination was the fact that natural gas was considered a mineral at the time the contract was formed…back in 1881.
In general, courts look at oil and gas as something that goes with the land, like trees, copper, or the house. It wouldn’t make sense for copper and trees to go with the land, while natural gas and oil did not. And to effectuate that determination, the easiest way is to call natural gas and oil “minerals.”
The court’s ruling cannot change the scientific properties of the material, though it can make the determination for the individual parties, their dispute, contract disputes, and future legal proceedings.
There’s also court rulings that talk about how the rights to a material like oil or gas after it has been extracted or produced change from rights of real property to rights of personal property.
Different rules govern these depending on what type of property the material is.
In any case, people should look to state specific or even country specific resources to rely upon if this question is one that is important to you or your business, and goes beyond simple curiosity.
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