What is Kerosene?

Kerosene is a fuel of many names. Known as kerosene, paraffin, or lamp oil, this substance is widely used as aviation fuel for jet engines as well as for rocket engines in a refined form. In domestic homes it is used as a cooking fuel for portable stoves and to soak items like poi and fire batons used in entertainment. This fuel is in common usage around the world. The term kerosene, or kerosine, is most common in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Nigeria, and India, while in the United Kingdom, Norway, Chile, and parts of Africa, the name paraffin is used. Lamp oil is the name of choice across Asia, and global consumption of kerosene stands at millions of barrels per day! But what is kerosene, and where does it come from?

Kerosene is a highly combustible hydrocarbon which is, like so many fuels, derived from petroleum. Kerosene takes it name from the ancient Greek word keros, meaning wax, due to the waxy form that can be refined from pure kerosene, known as paraffin wax. Generally, kerosene in its pure or unrefined form is a clear, non-viscous liquid which functions as an unbelievable versatile fuel that can be effective for a wide range of applications.

Kerosene is made by a process known as fractional distillation, which involves separating the individual compounds that make up crude oil. This process leaves behind a layer of kerosene which ranges from 0.8 to 0.82 grams per cubic centimeter in density. The greater the density, the more efficient the fuel! The production of kerosene dates back centuries, and the first written account of the kerosene distillation process came form ancient Persian scholar and philosopher, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Rizi, who lived roughly between 865 CE and 930 CE.

Kerosene is toxic to humans and should never be consumed, ingestion of liquid kerosene or inhalation of kerosene gas could be fatal! Liquid paraffin however, a refined form sometimes known as mineral oil, is commonly used as a laxative by healthcare industries and as an additive in many cosmetics such as skin and haircare products.