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Qualitative boiling curves of crude oil
other names

Luminous oil , middle distillate

Brief description Fuel, detergents, fuel for model airplane compression ignition engines
Physical state liquid

2 mm² / s (20 ° C)


about 0.8 g / cm³

Melting range −48 to −26 ° C
Boiling range

about 175-325 ° C

Flash point

55 to approx. 74 ° C

Ignition temperature 210 ° C
Explosive limit 0.7-5.0% vol
Temperature class T3
safety instructions
GHS labeling of hazardous substances
07 - Warning 08 - Dangerous to health 09 - Dangerous for the environment


H and P phrases H: 304
P: 301 + 310-331
UN number 1223
Hazard number 30th
As far as possible and customary, SI units are used. Unless otherwise noted, the data given apply to standard conditions .

Petroleum (of medium latin petroleum , shale oil, Mountain oil, crude oil ' from latin Petra , Rock' or, (large) Stone 'and Latin oleum , oil' ; short form Petrol ) is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained by fractional distillation of petroleum is won. The properties of the mixture of substances depend on the exact chemical composition and can vary widely. Petroleum is not very volatile and hardly flammable with a flash point between 55 and 74 ° C. Petroleum vapors are much heavier than air and can form explosive mixtures with it. The petroleum fraction in crude oil distillation is in the boiling range between gasoline and diesel fuel from around 175 ° C to 325 ° C.

The correct term for petroleum in American English is kerosene ; the frequently occurring translation into German with kerosene is incorrect, as the German term kerosene is limited exclusively to light petroleum. The correct term in British English , on the other hand, is paraffin . (The term paraffin oil is so rare that it is not even mentioned in most dictionaries.)

Petroleum was the historical term for petroleum , and the English word petroleum continues to mean petroleum or crude oil. In British English, petrol is the name for gasoline. The name according to the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) is "KEROSIN".


Petroleum is used as fuel ( calorific value : energy / mass 11.9 kWh / kg corresponding to 43.1 MJ / kg, energy / volume 9.5 kWh / l corresponding to 34.2 MJ / l) for kerosene lamps and as a cleaning agent. It burns evenly with very oily and sooty soot and is suitable as a cleaning agent to remove stubborn grease and dirt residues from metal surfaces.

Petroleum is used as a fuel for model airplane compression ignition engines (also called diesel engines) (42% petroleum, 36% diethyl ether, 20% castor oil, 2% isoamyl nitrite ). This type of engine is rarely used anymore. However, it is still produced in small series (India, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and former USSR states, primarily for team runners or foxhunting models). Petroleum is now also used in jet engines for model aircraft.

In some cases, petroleum is also used as a substitute fuel for spark-ignition engines for cost reasons , but it is not very efficient there. Examples are the Petro models from Saab - Valmet for the Finnish market.

Petroleum can be added to improve the cold properties (see Cloud Point , Cold Filter Plugging Point ) of diesel fuel at low temperatures. Due to the provision of winter diesel (early before the cold season), this method is usually no longer necessary and also not permitted, as modern injection systems can be damaged by the poorer lubricating properties.

In the trade, cleaning agents and solvents with very narrow boiling ranges are offered for a wide variety of applications and sold as petroleum . These substances are very pure (e.g. hydrogenated , dearomatized ) and have no heavy components that would leave residues. Petroleum is also used to store certain metals (such as pure potassium ). However, this shows a stronger crust formation than when storing the alkali metals under pure paraffin oil - which is recommended here.

With a flash point of (>) 55 ° C, petroleum is significantly safer than aviation or car petrol.

As the boiling curve (in the picture) shows, petroleum is indeed similar to turbine fuel ( kerosene ), but the clearly recognizable higher-boiling components would lead to an increased freezing point that does not meet the specifications . To call kerosene petroleum with additives is wrong.

Petroleum is also used as a lubricant for spindles with precise slide bearings, e.g. B. on surface grinding machines.


Oil lamp in the 19th century

Petroleum has been used as a fuel and medicinal ingredient since ancient times. From around 1870 until after the turn of the 20th century it was mainly used as fuel for kerosene lamps before it was replaced by electricity.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Petroleum  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. a b c d e f g h i j Entry on petroleum in the GESTIS substance database of the IFA , accessed on April 10, 2020(JavaScript required) .
  2. Prevention plan to combat pollution accidents. Properties of oil and its effects after an oil spill / 5.1 Physical properties. July 2019, accessed February 24, 2020 .
  3. DWDS - Digital Dictionary of the German Language. Retrieved March 7, 2020 .
  4. PARAFFIN | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Accessed March 7, 2020 (English).
  5. ^ Tommi Järvinen: Saab 99 Petro - dual fuel system. In: Tommi's Saab Site. March 26, 2013, accessed March 7, 2020 (UK English).
  6. Deutz AG technical circular (PDF file; 118 kB) of March 27, 1998.
  7. ^ Robert J. Forbes : Studies in ancient technology. 9 volumes, Leiden 1955–1964; here: Volume 1, pp. 1–120.
  8. Friedrich Klemm : History of Technology , 4th edition, Teubner, Stuttgart / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-519-00282-5 .