If you’re in the fuel industry, or one of the many industries dealing with industrial fuels, you’ve probably come across the terms “paraffin” and “kerosene”, perhaps even interchangeably. That’s because there is a lot of cross over between these two terms, and it even varies by country! To help cut through the confusion, we’ve thrown together this quick guide on paraffin, kerosene, and what the difference is between the two. If you’ve found yourself confused by the lax usage of these names, then look no further!
The term “paraffins” in chemistry refers to saturated compounds which adhere to the formula CnH2n+2 (n = number of carbon atoms), which are also sometimes known as “alkanes”. These compounds are a significant component of hydrocarbon fuels like petroleum and natural gas, leading to the name being carried over.
Paraffin is a catch-all name for a range of fuel products. Paraffin is available as a liquid fuel, but also as a paraffin wax and petroleum jelly. In these forms, paraffin can also be used as a machine lubricant, hydraulic fluid, or as a coolant. Paraffin has been known to have a particularly pungent odour, but refined paraffin is available with additives that help reduce its smell, for indoor use.
Kerosene, also known as home heating oil, 28-second oil, and lamp oil, is a specific type of paraffin. This is paraffin in its liquid fuel form, and some countries like the United States, purely refer to this as paraffin. In general, the home heating oil can be referred to as kerosene or paraffin interchangeably.
Kerosene is popular for many industries, including aviation as a jet fuel, and the entertainment industry for pyrotechnics and fire-based shows. Premium kerosene had an additive that helps the fuel to burn cleaner and more efficiently.
What’s The Difference?
Paraffin is an umbrella term used to refer to range of paraffin products, from waxes to jellies, which can be used for a variety of applications. Kerosene is a specific type of paraffin, the liquid fuel form, which can be referred to be either name. So, kerosene is always paraffin, but paraffin isn’t always kerosene.