Kerosene is a resulting compound of petroleum distillates, comprising a mixture of aliphatic hydrocarbons, naphthalene and aromatic. This commodity is an intermediate product between gasoline and diesel oil, obtained by fractional distillation of crude oil.

Kerosene has a large distillation curve (between 150 ° C and 239 ° C). The rate of slow evaporation, and a flash point or inflammation provides relatively safe handling. Kerosene  is also insoluble in water.

The most common applications of kerosene are lighting lamps and lanterns, fuel for residential heating, solvents for diluted bitumen production, applying insecticides, cleaning fluid and jet fuel (aviation kerosene). Kerosene was first derived from petroleum to have commercial value, replacing whale oil for lighting.

In Japan, kerosene is still used as heating fuel or fixed portable stoves. The Tokyo Commodity Exchange  (TOCOM) is the global benchmark for trading futures contracts of kerosene.


Kerosene, or paraffin oil, is a liquid resulting from fractional distillation of petroleum, with a boiling temperature between 150 and 290 degrees Celsius.

It is a complex combination of hydrocarbons (aliphatic, naphthenic and aromatic), having a carbon number mostly within the range of C9 to K16, produced by distillation of crude oil.

The product has various characteristics as a large specific distillation curve, giving this an excellent solvency power and a slow rate of evaporation, and a flash point that provides relative safety in handling. It is insoluble in water.


Crude oil distillation into kerosene and other hydrocarbon compounds was first done in the 9th century by the Persian scholar Razi (or Rhazes). In his Kitab al-Asrar (Book of Secrets), the physician and chemist Razi described two methods for kerosene production, called Naft abyad (white naphtha), using a device called an alembic.

One method involves clay, used as the absorbent, whereas other methods use ammonium chloride (sal ammoniac). The distillation process is repeated until the final product is perfectly clear and safe , i.e., the volatile hydrocarbon fractions are mostly removed.

Kerosene was also produced during the same period from shale oil and bitumen by heating the rock to extract the oil, which was then distilled.

Oil for lighting

Although coal oil has been well known to industrial chemists since the 1700s, as a byproduct of coal tar and coal gas, it burns with a flame and smoke preventing its use for interior lighting.

In cities, much of the interior lighting was supplied by piped coal gas, but outside the cities, and local lighting in cities, the lucrative market to supply interior lamps was provided by whale oil, specifically from sperm whales, which burned brighter and cleaner.

In 1846, the Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner gave a public demonstration of a new process that had discovered. He heated the coal and distilled from it a thin liquid. He proved it to be an excellent fuel for lamps. He coined the name for this fuel, Kerosene, a keroselaion contraction, ie wax oil. The cost of kerosene extraction from coal was high.

Fortunately, Gesner remembered his extensive knowledge of New Brunswick an asphalt, naturally occurring, named albertite geology. He was prevented from using it by the New Brunswick coal conglomerate, because they had coal mining rights to the province, and he lost a lawsuit when its experts claimed albertite was a form of coal. Gesner later moved to Newtown Creek, Long Island, New York in 1854, where he secured the support of a group of businessmen. They formed the American Gas Light Company of the North, to which he attributed his patents.

Kerosene Oil

In 1851, Samuel Martin Kier began selling lamp oil from local miners, under the name Carbon oil. It was distilled through a process of his own invention from crude oil. He also invented a new lamp to burn the product. He was nicknamed the grandfather of the American Petroleum Industry by historians.

Ignacy Lukasiewicz, a resident polish pharmacist, experimented with various distillation techniques, in trying to improve Gesner kerosene process, but with the use of oil drain sites.

Increasing the supply of oil allowed the oil refineries put aside the patent-oil and coal, to  produce light oil without paying royalties to anyone. As a result, the kerosene industry in the US completely changed in favour of oil in the 1860s. Oil-base illuminating oil was widely sold as kerosene, and the trade name soon lost its status and became the generic kerosene product.

In the UK, oil from coal (or oil shale) continued in production until the early 20th century, although increasingly overshadowed by petroleum oils.

Electric lighting began to dominate kerosene as an illuminant in the late 1800s, especially in urban areas. However, kerosene remained predominant in use for commercial purposes by refined petroleum US until 1909, when it was overtaken by fuel.

The rise of cars running on gasoline in the early 1900s created a demand for the lighter hydrocarbon fractions, and refineries invented methods to increase the production of gasoline, kerosene. Furthermore, some of the heavier hydrocarbons were made into diesel fuel. Kerosene still kept some market share, increasingly being used in stoves and portable heaters.

In 2013, kerosene contributed to about 0.1 volume percent in the production of petroleum refinery in the USA.


Historically, kerosene was the first commercial product derived from petroleum, replacing oil and whale oil lighting.

The most common uses for kerosene are lighting, solvent and fuel for aircraft.

Ongoing research is developing an alternative fuel derived from biomass, called bio-kerosene.


The Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM) is the global benchmark for trading futures contracts for kerosene.


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