API gravity

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Description:
The American Petroleum Institute gravity, or API gravity, is a measure of how heavy or light a petroleum liquid is compared to water. If its API gravity is greater than 10, it is lighter and floats on water; if less than 10, it is heavier and sinks. API gravity is thus an inverse measure of the relative density of a petroleum liquid and the density of water, but it is used to compare the relative densities of petroleum liquids. For example, if one petroleum liquid floats on another and is therefore less dense, it has a greater API gravity. Although mathematically, API gravity has no units (see the formula below), it is nevertheless referred to as being in "degrees". API gravity is graduated in degrees on a hydrometer instrument. The API scale was designed so that most values would fall between 10 and 70 API gravity degrees.

History of development

The U.S. National Bureau of Standards in 1916 established the Baumé scale (see: Degree Baumé) as the standard for measuring specific gravity of liquids less dense than water (see: Density of water). Investigation by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found major errors in salinity and temperature controls that had caused serious variations in published values. Hydrometers in the U.S. had been manufactured and distributed widely with a modulus of 141.5 instead of the Baumé scale modulus of 140. The scale was so firmly established that by 1921 the remedy implemented by the American Petroleum Institute was to create...
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