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Kerosene

Kerosene is from the Greek words for wax and oil. It is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons from a variety of chemical processes blended to create various compounds. Kerosene is lighter than diesel fuel and heavier fuel oils like heating oil for houses.

Albert Gesner's work as a geologist led him to the creation of kerosene. While working as New Brunswick’s first geologist, he discovered in 1839 a large deposit of pitch-like, bitumous substance now called “albertite.” Albertite is named after the Albert Country where it was found, and this discovery would prove important later. In the 1840s, Gesner began searching for a new type of illuminant. He distilled a few lumps of coal producing a clear liquid. Gesner took a chance, placed the oil in a lamp with a flat absorbent wick, and lit it on fire. The light was clear and clean, with none of the smoke and smell of whale oil, which was predominantly used. Public demonstrations of the new light included a spectacular event in 1846, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. These displays of the high quality of bright light produced great interest in kerosene.

Gesner wished to use the albertite he had discovered in 1839 to increase production. However, legal opposition to his access there forced Gesner to resort to other plans. In 1854, Gesner obtained patents for the distillation of bituminous rock from which he could obtain kerosene. He then purified kerosene by treating it with sulphuric acid and lime and then redistilled it. Supply was still a problem until Gesner found that kerosene could be extracted from petroleum. By the late 1850s, kerosene had surpassed all other illuminants in sales. Kerosene was the major product of refineries. Growing popular demand for gasoline powered vehicles gradually made the production of gasoline and lubricants the principal concern. In the second half of the twentieth century, kerosene was developed for diesel engines and as the fuel for jet aircraft.

 

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