Kerosene (from Gr. wax), a term originally employed as a trade mark for a mixture of certain liquid hydrocarbons used for purposes of illumination. It has been prepared from bituminous coal, bituminous shales, as-phaltums, malthas, wood, rosin, fish oil, and candle tar; but it is now almost exclusively obtained from petroleum. It is produced in greater or less quantity during the destructive distillation, at moderate temperatures, of nearly all organic and mineral substances containing carbon and hydrogen. It has been obtained for commercial purposes in enormous quantities from the petroleum of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Rangoon in India, the Caucasus, and other localities, and in less quantities from the cannel coals of England and the United States, the Boghead shale of Scotland, the al-bertite of New Brunswick, the asphaltum of Trinidad, and common rosin. It has been prepared in small quantities from the malthas of southern California, and from menhaden oil. For the details respecting its preparation from petroleum, see Petroleum Products.-Kerosene consists of a mixture of many hydrocarbons, the whole having the consistence of the essential oils, a burning taste, and aromatic odor.
When properly prepared it is nearly colorless by transmitted light, but is slightly opalescent by reflected light. Its density as compared with water should be about •810, or 43° of Baume's hydrometer. When heated it should not yield inflammable vapors below 110° or 120° F., and should extinguish a lighted match as readily as water at the ordinary temperature of our apartments. As the temperature of this oil in a burning lamp seldom or never exceeds 100° F., it is obvious that such an oil is perfectly safe, as it would never yield any vapor below 110° which, by mingling with the air above the oil in the lamp, could form with it an explosive mixture. Chemically considered, kerosene is a mixture of the less volatile members of the marsh gas series of the hydrides of the alcohol radicals (CnH2n + 2), of a second homologous series isomeric with the first, having higher boiling points, together with members of the ethylene or olefiant gas series (CnH2n ).-The manufacture of this product as an article of commerce has developed into enormous proportions. Its unsurpassed qualities as an illuminating agent, together with its cheapness when compared with other substances used for that purpose, has caused it to penetrate to every region whither its transportation is possible.
Like many other of the great industries of the world, it has arisen from repeated and very small beginnings. The extraction of oil from bituminous substances, as shales, coals, asphaltum, etc, is no new discovery. The first announcement that oil might be thus procured is contained in the specification of a patent granted in England in 1694 to Martin Eele, Thomas Hancock, and William Portlock, for "a way to extract and make great quantities of pitch, tar, and oyle out of a sort of stone, of which there is a sufficient found within our dominions of England and Wales." The stone proved to be a bituminous shale; but no practical results appear to have followed the discovery and the patent. In 1716 the Messrs. Betton of Shrewsbury patented a process for extracting oil from the black, pitchy, flinty rock commonly found overlying the coal beds. This must have been the bituminous shales; and their method was to grind them to powder and subject the material to destructive distillation. The product was used only as a medicine, and was noticed as such in 1761 in Lewis's "Materia Medica," under the name of British or petroleum oil, "extracted by distillation from a hard bitumen or a kind of stone coal found in Shropshire and other parts of England." The substance and the method of procuring it received occasional notice in the scientific journals; the earliest paper of much interest containing an account of Dr. Clayton's experiments was published in the "Philosophical Transactions " of January, 1739. But it was about 90 years after this before any decided advance was made in adding to our knowledge of the products of the slow distillation of organic bodies.
Those products, however, were known only as oily fluids, possessing no interest except as empirical medicines, when Rei-chenbach of Moravia undertook to investigate their properties, and extended his researches to the great variety of products of the destructive distillation at both high and low temperatures of organic bodies, of animal as well as vegetable origin. The mixture of the several hydrocarbons, such as constitute the purified coal oils, he called eupione (Gr. very, and fat). Ho recognized the superior illuminating quality of these oils, and observed that a cheap method of separating them from the tarry residues was alone required to bring them into extensive use for domestic purposes. The great number of new substances which he thus discovered, together with the promise that several among them might be applied to useful purposes, gave great interest to the accounts of his investigations which appeared in the Journal fur Chemie und Physik of Schweigger-Seidel, the Neues Jahrbuch der Chemie und Physik, and Erdmann's Journal fur praktische Chemie, for 1830-31. They attracted the attention of scientific and practical chemists in other parts of Europe, some of whom, in France particularly, were already engaged in the extraction of the oils from bituminous substances, a patent for which had been granted in 1824 to the MM. Chervau. In 1832 Blum and Moneuse patented the application of these oils to illuminating purposes.
The latter had a factory near Autun in the department of Saone-et-Loire for treating the bituminous shales of that district; the chemist Laurent was at this time engaged in conducting the operations, and a year or two afterward was succeeded by Selligue. The papers published by these chemists, and especially the specifications of the patents taken out by the latter from 1834 to 1845, published in the Brevets d' invention, present full details of the operations, which they had already brought to such a state of perfection that the subsequent improvements introduced consisted merely in comparatively unimportant modifications of the apparatus employed. Up to the year 1861 no treatise upon the subject had appeared at all comparable to that in the specification of the patent of March 19, 1845 (Brevets d' invention, new series, iv. 30). Of this an English translation is recorded in the specification of the patent of Du Buisson, No. 10,726 of the English patent office. (See also a paper on the history of this manufacture by F. H. Storer, in the "American Journal of Science," vol. xxx., pp. 121 and 254, 1860.) In this specification Selligue describes first the apparatus employed in the distillation, in one form of which he makes use of superheated steam.
The products of the distillation are then enumerated, which were as follows: 1, a very limpid whitish volatile oil, almost without odor, useful as a solvent or for illumination in suitable lamps, and sometimes known as naphtha; 2, a straw-colored oil, somewhat volatile, of specific gravity 0.84 to 0.87, almost odorless, and suitable for burning in lamps in which the oil is kept at the same level, and which are provided with a double current of air, with a chimney, and proper burner; 3, a heavier oil adapted for lubricating machinery; 4, a red coloring matter extracted from the different varieties of the oils; 5, paraffine; 6, a grease for lubricating machinery, being evidently a mixture of paraffine in little oil; 7, a black pitch, the residue of the distillation, suitable for coating wood, metals, etc, for their preservation; 8, an alkaline soap prepared by treating the oil with alkalies; 9, sulphate of ammonia; 10, fertilizing mixtures prepared with the ammoniacal liquors; 11, sulphate of alumina. The crude oil obtained from his retorts, which were like those of the gas works, he treated either before or after its being redistilled with a quantity of acid (sulphuric, muriatic, or nitric), and caused the mixture to be thoroughly agitated.
This operation being continued for some time, the tarry matters were partially freed from the oil, and on the mixture being left to repose they subsided with the acid, so that the purified oil could be drawn off from the top, bringing with it but little of the acid!
This was neutralized by addition of an alkali, as the lye of soap boilers, and after the mixture had been well agitated again, more tar and coloring matter subsided, from which the oils were separated by decanting again and redistilling. By a series of fractional distillations the several sorts of light oils were obtained in a pure state. - In 1846 Abraham Gesner made oil from coal in Prince Edward island, and was the first to give it the name kerosene. In England the establishment of the coal-oil manufacture was due to the enterprise of James Young of Glasgow. In 1847 his attention was directed to the extraction of a lubricating oil from petroleum, which exuded from a coal mine in Derbyshire; and having exhausted the supply of this, he next applied to the same purpose the Torbanehill mineral or Boghead can-nel, a material which was first ascertained in 1850 to possess an unusual proportion of bitumen, and to be capable of affording large quantities of gas. Mr. Young found it still better adapted for the manufacture of oil, and succeeded so well that in 1854, as he testified in a lawsuit for establishing his patent, his production of oil amounted to about 8,000 gallons a week, which sold for 5s. a gallon.
For the year the sales reached about £100,000, a large proportion of which was profit. Such success soon led others to undertake the manufacture, and coal-oil works rapidly increased in England, and were introduced into the United States. The first factory of the kind in this country was that of the kerosene oil company, on Newtown creek, Long Island, opposite the upper part of New York city, which went into operation in June, 1854. It was designed to work the Boghead cannel or other materials of similar character that might be brought to New York from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, or from the western coal mines; and the operations were to be conducted under the patent of Mr. Young, granted to him in this country as well as in England, for the exclusive use of coal for this manufacture. His claim, however, was not recognized at other works of later date in the United States, and was never enforced. In 1856 the Breckenridge coal-oil works at Cloverport, Ky., on the Ohio river, were producing oil from the cannel coal of the vicinity, which somewhat resembled the Boghead cannel in appearance and in its rich bituminous character; and the same year a factory was built in Perry co., Ohio. The cannel coals of this region proving to be well adapted for this application, several other factories were soon constructed, particularly in the vicinity of Newark, Licking co., Canfield, Mahoning co., and in Coshocton co.; and at the close of the year 1860 the total number in Ohio was probably not less than 25, and there were also many in other states.
The processes pursued in the different works were essentially the same. The only distinctions of importance were in the forms of the apparatus, and particularly in the retorts. The common form in use for some time was that of the gas retort, long cast-iron boxes, with an opening at the end that projected from the furnace in which they were set, and shaped in their section like the letter A. Others were made of cylindri-cal form, were set upright in the furnace, made to be charged at the top and discharged at the bottom, and furnished with exit pipes for the volatile products either at the top or at different heights. Earthenware retorts were substituted in some works for those of cast iron, as in the manufacture of gas. In the use of all of them a loss resulted from the unequal degree in which portions of the charge were heated, a part being rapidly overheated so as to produce gaseous matters, while other parts were acquiring the heat necessary for the generation of the oily products. This defect was however corrected by means of a revolving retort which was invented in France, and which produced a more uniform distribution of heat.
Methods of distillation were also in use by which an external fire was dispensed with, and the heat required for the expulsion of the volatile matters was produced by the combustion of a portion of the material, as in the process of making charcoal. Near Wheeling, Va., this plan was in operation, the coal being collected in pits of 100 tons' charge, and covered with earth. Other forms of kiln were in use, but as the process of obtaining kerosene from coal is abandoned, more than the above notice is superfluous. In 1860 the establishments on the Atlantic coast alone produced about 200,000 barrels. At that date, according to the census returns, the total value of all the kerosene produced in the country was estimated at $2,142,693. The marvellous production of petroleum during the years immediately following led to the abandonment of coal as a crude material. Those establishments then using coal rapidly changed to petroleum refineries, and many new refineries were erected at different points. (See Petroleum Products.)