what is measured in barrels nyt

What is Measured in Barrels? | NYT Article

What is Measured in Barrels?

An Exploration of the Different Applications of the Barrel Measurement Unit


The measurement unit “barrel” is commonly used in various industries to quantify volumes of different substances. While most people associate barrels with oil and petroleum-related products, this article aims to shed light on the diverse range of materials and commodities that are measured in barrels. From oil to whiskey, there are numerous commodities that adhere to this unit of measure.

Oil Industry

When discussing barrels, the first industry that comes to mind is the oil industry. The internationally recognized unit for oil volume is the barrel, abbreviated as “bbl”. It is commonly used to quantify the amount of crude oil produced, transported, and traded worldwide. This unit provides a standardized measurement system, facilitating the smooth functioning of the global oil market.

Alcoholic Beverages

The barrel measurement is not limited to just the oil industry. In the realm of alcoholic beverages, barrels play a significant role in aging and maturing spirits such as whiskey, bourbon, and wine. The size of the barrel affects the flavor profile of the beverage as it interacts with the wood during the aging process. The standard barrel sizes used in this context are the American Standard Barrel (ASB) and the smaller Bourbon Barrel, both of which hold approximately 53 gallons or 200 liters.

Beer Production

Barrels also find their place in the brewing industry. Historically, barrels were used to store and transport beer. While the use of barrels has decreased over time, the measurement unit has remained. A barrel of beer typically contains 31 gallons or 117 liters of the beloved beverage. However, it’s important to note that this measurement may vary depending on regional standards and customs.

Commodity Trading

Alongside the oil industry, barrels are utilized in the trading of various commodities. Some examples include crude oil derivatives, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil. These secondary products are often quoted in barrels, enabling efficient trading and price determination. Additionally, commodities like coffee, grain, and even pork bellies may also be traded using the barrel measurement unit.

Industrial and Chemical Applications

Industries such as construction, manufacturing, and the chemical industry also employ barrels as a unit of measure. In construction, barrels may be used to gauge the volume of materials like concrete, cement, or asphalt. Similarly, certain chemicals are measured in barrels for storage, transport, and processing purposes.


While barrels are undeniably associated with the oil industry, their application extends far beyond petroleum-related products. From the alcoholic beverage industry to commodity trading and various industrial sectors, barrels serve as a widely accepted unit for measuring volumes. Understanding the diverse range of materials quantified in barrels provides valuable insights into the numerous sectors where this measurement unit plays a significant role.

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