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The Types & Uses of Liquid Fuels

Updated on January 23, 2017

Introduction

Without fuel, civilization as we know it today would come to a very abrupt standstill. It’s necessary for so many essential applications that we take tend to take for granted, including the running of transport (both domestic and commercial), industrial machinery, the heating of homes and often for the cooking of food.

There are a number of liquid fuels, each with their own properties and benefits. When it comes to selecting an oil distributor, you should select those who will take the time to discuss which fuel is best for your requirements. Oil distributors such as Quad Fuels not only supply a range of fuels, but also fuel additives.

Before fuel additives and their advantages are discussed, here is a rundown of all the liquid fuels that are used today.

Diesel

We’re all very familiar with diesel. Diesel engines have been used in many models of cars since the 1930s. Whilst this form of fuel didn’t gain popularity within car engines until the 1960s, the fuel has now been recognised for its fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction compared to petrol.

Diesel is the most used fuel within transportation vehicles, including commercial trucks, buses and modern trains. Tractors and other heavy machinery typically run on diesel engines, however you may have heard this being referred to as ‘red diesel’.

Red diesel is no different in terms of chemical structure to regular diesel. A red dye is added for the VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) and police to make sure that this particular diesel is strictly used for vehicles within the agricultural sector.

This is due to the tax costs of red diesel being much lower than regular road diesel for non-commercial vehicles. Those who use red diesel within their personal vehicle can face hefty fines if it is discovered.

Diesel fuel can be manufactured from a number of different sources. Amongst these sources are petroleum, natural gas, biogas and animal fat. Petroleum diesel is regarded as the most common type of diesel fuel, and is produced from crude oil.

Diesel is stored in black containers within the UK, and is often labelled as such within petrol stations.

Petrol

Petrol, also known as gasoline within North America, is another well known and used fuel. Much like diesel, it’s obtained from petroleum; however the refining processes for these two fuels vary.

Petrol fuel is less dense than diesel, and is slightly harder to refine than diesel. Despite diesel being easier to refine, it contains much more pollutants than petrol which need to be extracted before it can be used.

Petrol is typically used within cars, as well as motorised equipment such as chainsaws and lawnmowers. It should be noted that petrol has more ‘explosive’ properties than diesel, and is a lot more flammable.

Kerosene

Kerosene is known under a number of different names. Paraffin, domestic heating oil, 28 second oil – it’s all the same thing.

Kerosene has a range of uses, ranging from powering rocket engines to heating homes. You’ll find kerosene commercially sold in two grades in the UK. Class C1 is used for small camping stoves and lanterns, whilst class C2 kerosene is typically the favoured grade for indoor stoves and heaters.

Kerosene is also the same fuel that is used within the entertainment/performance industry, including use by fire breathers and fire dancers. Kerosene is the preferred fuel for these activities due to its low flame temperature, especially when burnt in free air.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

LPG, also commonly known as butane or propane is used as fuel in cooking equipment and domestic heating appliances.

You’ll have likely seen the colourful gas cylinders at petrol stations and various shops, which are weighted in various kilograms. These cylinders pressurise LPG into a liquid form. Once pressure is released through the valve on the canister, gas is emitted and can be used to fuel a range of applications.

In rural parts of the UK, LPG gas is used as an alternative to electric heating. For those that do not have direct access to piped gas, LPG is an incredibly beneficial form of fuel.

In certain areas in Brazil and India, LPG is subsidised by the government to residents. It’s also a commonly used fuel for domestic cooking in North America.

Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed natural gas, or CNG, is methane which has been stored at a high pressure. It can be used as a replacement for LPG, diesel and petrol. Whilst it’s not actually a liquid, it’s not stored in gas form either.

It’s known as a ‘supercritical fluid’, which means it is at a pressure and temperature where distinct gas and liquid phases do not exist.

Compressed natural gas is a safer alternative to other fuel methods, due to natural gas being lighter than air. In the case of a spill, CNG disperses quickly.

CNG can be used to fuel automobile engines; however the engines must have been built or modified for the purpose. Cars built to utilise CNG are referred to as ‘bi-fuel’ cars.

With the costs of traditional car fuels increasing, many people are starting to use CNG in Europe and America.

Fuel Additives

Fuel additives can prolong the longevity of fuels, as well as increasing the performance of the appliances which the fuel is being used to power.

Fuel additives act as a lubricant within fuels such as kerosene, and can also help to break down sludge formations which are often found within fuel storage tanks.

There are many different types of fuel additives, each with a different purpose. Fuel additives can also be used within cars to increase the lifespan of their engines. They can also help to lower the emissions produced by car engines.

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