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  • Writer's picturePinnock Brothers

Ultimate Guide to Kerosene

Kerosene, a versatile and powerful fuel, has played a pivotal role in our history, providing heat, light, and energy to countless households and industries. Its origins can be traced back to the extraction of coal and crude oil, and since then, it has been used extensively for various purposes. From its significant impact on lighting innovations to its reliable heat source capabilities, kerosene has proven to be an invaluable resource. It’s estimated that around 1.6m UK households rely on kerosene who are not connected to the mains network, with around 1,084,200 barrels of kerosene used around the globe every day.

Key Takeaways

  • Kerosene is a versatile fuel used for heat, light, and power.

  • It is derived from fossil fuels and obtained through fractional distillation of crude oil.

  • Kerosene has a long history of use for heating and lighting before the invention of electricity.

  • It has various applications, including as a source of light, home heating fuel, aviation fuel, and cleaning agent.

What is Kerosene?

Kerosene, a flammable oil with low viscosity, serves as a fuel source for businesses and residences, providing heat, light, and power. It goes by various names such as kerosine, paraffin, heating oil, 28-second, kero, lamp oil, burning oil, and boiler fuel, all of which denote the same fuel derived from the fractional distillation of crude oil.

The term "28-second oil" is employed to characterize the viscosity of kerosene, determined by the time it takes for 50ml of the oil to drip into a beaker during a specific test. This viscosity distinction is also the reason behind the "35-second" designation for red diesel.

The Origins of Kerosene

Oil extraction from crude sources has a rich history, reaching back to the 9th century with early distillation records. The term 'kerosene' gained prominence in the mid-19th century when Canadian geologist Abraham Pineo Gesner registered it as a trademark in the US in 1854, designating it as a lamp oil derived from coal. Gesner claimed kerosene production began in 1846, supported by a public demonstration in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

The term 'kerosene' finds its roots in the Greek word κηρός (keros), meaning wax, reflecting the waxy substance produced during distillation. Gesner registered it as a trademark in 1854, eventually evolving into a genericized trademark. The Kerosene Gas Light Company, established in 1854 by Gesner in Newtown Creek, Long Island, New York, pioneered the distribution of kerosene to businesses and homes.

Historically, kerosene extraction involved fossil fuels such as coal, oil shale, and wood. Continuous improvements in distillation methods have transformed kerosene into the robust and reliable fuel we know today. Before the era of electricity, kerosene played a central role in heating and illuminating the world. However, societal changes led to a decline in oil lamp usage in more developed areas, with a subsequent shift towards rural heating.

How is Kerosene Produced?

Kerosene, a crucial combustible hydrocarbon liquid, is a by product of the fractional distillation process applied to petroleum. This natural oil, extracted from beneath the earth's surface, undergoes high-temperature treatment (150-275°C) to break down into diverse fuels, including petrol, fuel oil, butane, propane, lubricating oil, and the distinctive kerosene.

Recognizable by its light and clear appearance, kerosene often incorporates dye to distinguish it from counterparts like red diesel. Its physical properties, such as thin viscosity and a density ranging between 0.78-0.81 g/cm³, contribute to its versatility as a fuel source. Chemically, kerosene consists of a blend of hydrocarbons known as alkanes, featuring approximately 10 variations with 10-16 carbon atoms per molecule. Predominant constituents include saturated straight-chain, branched-chain paraffins, and ring-shaped cycloparaffins (naphthene's).

The combustible hydrocarbon liquid, kerosene, is extracted, leaving a clear and thin oil which is then sold to distributors like Pinnock Brothers.

The Evolution of Kerosene Usage

Throughout history, kerosene has undergone a remarkable transformation in its usage, adapting to the changing needs and advancements in technology. Here are four key aspects that highlight this evolution:

  • Industrial Applications: Kerosene played a crucial role in the industrial revolution, powering machinery and providing heat for various manufacturing processes. However, concerns over its environmental impact have led to a shift towards cleaner and renewable energy sources.

  • Household Lighting: Kerosene lamps were widely used for lighting before the advent of electricity. Today, with the availability of safer and more energy-efficient options, such as LED lights, kerosene lamps have become less common in households.

  • Aviation Fuel: Kerosene, commonly known as jet fuel, is still extensively used in the aviation industry. However, as the world moves towards sustainable alternatives, the future of kerosene in aviation remains uncertain.

  • Cleaner Kerosene Production: With growing awareness of the environmental impact of fossil fuels, efforts are being made to reduce the carbon footprint of kerosene production. Innovations in cleaner extraction methods and the development of sustainable alternatives may shape the future of kerosene in a renewable energy world.

Kerosene as a Reliable Heat Source

Kerosene serves as a dependable and efficient source of heat in various applications. Here are four reasons why kerosene is a reliable heat source:

1. Reliability for Off-Grid Communities: Kerosene is a lifeline for off-grid communities that lack access to electricity or natural gas. It provides a consistent and accessible heat source, allowing these communities to stay warm during cold weather.

2. Versatility: Kerosene can be used in a wide range of heating devices, including heaters, stoves, and lamps. Its versatility makes it suitable for various heating needs, whether it's for indoor heating or outdoor activities like camping.

3. Energy Efficiency: Compared to other heating sources, kerosene is known for its energy efficiency. It produces more heat per unit compared to electricity, making it a cost-effective option for heating large spaces or areas with limited insulation.

4. Safety and Ease of Use: Kerosene heaters are designed with safety features such as automatic shut-off mechanisms and flame control. They are easy to operate and maintain, making them a practical choice for households and communities seeking a reliable heat source.

Benefits to Using Kerosene to Heat your Home

When weighing various options for heating your home or workplace, what advantages come with choosing kerosene?

  1. High Efficiency: Kerosene stands out for its high efficiency, releasing more heat per unit volume compared to alternative fuels like gas or electricity.

  2. Affordability: The fuel's cost-effectiveness makes kerosene one of the most economical ways to heat your home or workplace.

  3. Safety: Kerosene's clean burn ensures low carbon monoxide emissions, contributing to a safer heating solution.

Safety Precautions for Handling Kerosene

Proper handling and adherence to safety precautions are of utmost importance when working with kerosene due to its flammable nature and potential health risks. To ensure the safe handling of kerosene, follow these precautions:

Safe storage practices:

  • Store kerosene in approved containers, away from open flames and heat sources.

  • Keep containers tightly sealed to prevent leaks and spills.

  • Store kerosene in a well-ventilated area, away from living spaces.

Health risks and precautions:

  • Avoid direct skin contact with kerosene. Wear protective gloves and clothing when handling.

  • Use kerosene in well-ventilated areas to minimize inhalation of fumes.

  • If exposed to kerosene fumes or ingested, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Keep kerosene out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.

Are Kerosene Fumes Harmful?

Kerosene burns with relatively low emissions and poses a low risk of carbon monoxide, making it less prone to explosions or fires due to its lack of fuel vapor. However, exposure to kerosene fumes can lead to dizziness, and prolonged inhalation may result in neurological or kidney damage. Despite being safe to touch, kerosene is toxic when inhaled or ingested, potentially causing fatality.

According to Public Health England, fuel oil, including kerosene, can be fatal if swallowed and enters the airways, warranting immediate medical attention in such cases.

Is Kerosene Safe to Use Indoors?

In essence, yes! Kerosene stands out as a non-corrosive and less volatile fuel compared to alternatives like red diesel and gasoline. With a flash point of 38°C (compared to gasoline's -40°C), it is significantly safer to store and handle.

Furthermore, properly installed and stored heating oil systems using kerosene will not produce indoor dirt, soot, or odours, ensuring a safe and clean indoor environment.

Can Kerosene Go Bad?

Similar to most fuels, it is advisable not to leave kerosene in storage for prolonged periods as it may become contaminated with water. Spoiled kerosene has the potential to cause damage to your heater. We recommend testing your kerosene at least once a year

Pinnock Brothers: A Trusted Supplier of Kerosene

Pinnock Brothers has established itself as a reputable and reliable supplier of kerosene, offering a wide range of high-quality fuel products and services.

As a trusted provider in the kerosene supply chain, Pinnock Brothers ensures the delivery of premium-grade kerosene to meet the diverse needs of its customers.

With a strong focus on customer satisfaction and safety, Pinnock Brothers adheres to strict quality control measures to guarantee the purity and efficiency of their kerosene products.

By choosing Pinnock Brothers as your supplier, you can benefit from the advantages of using kerosene, such as its affordability, versatility, and clean-burning properties.

Whether you require kerosene for heating, lighting, or other applications, Pinnock Brothers is committed to providing you with a reliable and sustainable fuel solution.


In conclusion, kerosene has a long and rich history as a versatile fuel source, providing heat, light, and power generation. From its origins in coal and crude oil extraction to its widespread use in various applications, kerosene has played a crucial role in society.

However, it is important to prioritize safety precautions when handling this combustible oil. Pinnock Brothers remains a trusted supplier of kerosene and other related products, ensuring reliable access to this essential fuel.


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