Since the middle half of the 19th century, kerosene had been an integral part of many households. Even today, it is estimated that around 500 million households still use kerosene for their everyday needs. But what if you run out and can’t buy any right now? Is it possible to make your own? I did some extensive research, and this is what I learned.
Kerosene cannot easily be made at home since it involves many complicated processes and requires specialized equipment that ordinary people do not usually have access to. However, bio-diesel, a kerosene substitute, can be made using readily-available ingredients with a simple laboratory setup.
The rest of the article will answer a few more questions you might have and even provide a simple recipe for making biodiesel, a clean-burning kerosene alternative.
Is Making Your Own Kerosene or Kerosene Substitute Safe?
Technically, making kerosene can be done on your own since it is possible to find the information on how to do it. In fact, it is probably all on the internet if you just look hard enough.
However, without expert supervision or the right laboratory setup, making homemade kerosene would be dangerous and ill-advised. Even if you have the appropriate background knowledge, it’s still highly advisable for you to refrain from attempting to make kerosene if you are not a 100% percent confident about your chances. Highly unlikely.
For starters, you need to be absolutely knowledgeable about every step of the process in order for you to avoid inhaling large quantities of kerosene vapor as well as other types of hydrocarbon vapors that might be produced.
Here are some issues you would face in such an endeavor:
- The inhalation or ingestion of kerosene vapor can lead to you developing symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and severe headaches.
- It can also cause skin irritations that can lead to eczema if you happen to have prolonged exposure to it.
- Other harmful chemicals that are in liquid kerosene are hexane and benzene, which experts determined to cause damage to the bone marrow, ultimately leading to blood cell disorders, such as anemia.
- Kerosene has a high flash point (at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit), higher than gasoline, and other petroleum products. While this means that it is much safer than gasoline, it can still be ignited. There is a definite risk of fire or explosion incidents if kerosene is mishandled.
Nasty stuff and not worth the risk.
However, there is a much safer alternative to making kerosene.
What Can You Use as a Substitute for Kerosene?
For those still utilizing kerosene today, it can be quite a hassle when you run out suddenly, especially in the moments where you need it most. Fortunately, depending on the use, of course, there are many substitutes.
But before I get into the details, just keep in mind that some of the stuff mentioned here is based on anecdotal information and has not yet been adequately studied or proven to officially work correctly every single time. So, try these things at your own risk. I won’t be held accountable if you blow yourself up. 🙂
3 Substitutes For Kerosene in Lamps
For kerosene lamps, you can use a variety of different types of generic lamp oils. Although many of them are more expensive than kerosene, here they are. Just in case you happen to have them lying around.
- Lamp Oil- Produces a cleaner smoke as well as having a much more bearable odor than kerosene.
- Bio-Diesel- You could also use bio-diesel that had been specially made for lamps. This is not the same thing as the bio-diesel you can find in gas stations. On the other hand, you can actually use diesel for your kerosene heaters, and it surprisingly burns better than kerosene.
- Jet fuel- This stuff mainly contains kerosene. While it’s unlikely you have any jet fuel, it’s nothing more than refined kerosene.
Of course, you are probably reading this because you want to learn how to make bio-diesel, a great kerosene substitute. I have never done this myself, but have heard about it being done. One of these days, I will get around to doing it, but here is what I know about how it’s accomplished.
How to Make Bio-Diesel as Kerosene Substitute at Home
Bio-diesel is known to be a good substitute for kerosene. In fact, it is known to produce very little smoke and has a very long burn time.
First off, be sure that you prioritize your safety over everything else in this endeavor. Also, be very aware that this process can potentially harm you and those around you. So, if you are just doing this for fun and have literally no idea about the process as a whole, you are better off just sitting this one out until you can have a trained professional show you how it’s done. Even so, here goes.
In this project, the bio-diesel will be extracted from regular vegetable oil, following a small scale process:
1. Set Up Your Lab
Prepare all the necessary tools and equipment that you will be using. Preferably, you would want to set up your makeshift laboratory in a place where you can easily have access to electricity.
If you can’t think of anything, simply use an extension cord of appropriate length so you can still have a power source wherever you are. It is highly advisable that you use a folding table so you won’t have a hard time moving your stuff around if you need to.
Now is the time to put on your safety gear such as goggles, work gloves, and old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained. The better your safety gear is, the lesser chance you’ll have in having an injury.
2. Heat the Oil
Get your oil and pour 48 ounces of it inside a flask then heat it at the low setting. Using a thermometer, wait till it reaches around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit before proceeding to the next step. Place a heat lamp near it so you can regulate the temperature.
3. Begin Creating Methoxide
Now, get a funnel and an empty 2-liter pet bottle. Add in 5 grams of lye, then add 1.4 liters of ethanol and securely close the lid to prevent moisture from seeping in.
4. Finish Creating Methoxide
Gently rock the plastic bottle in order to dissolve the lye in methanol. The combination of the two will heat up the bottle slightly and create a chemical called methoxide.
5. Prepare to Stir and Regulate Temperature
Now, going back to the flask with your vegetable oil, put it above a magnetic stirrer and keep track of its temperature. Play around with the distance of the heat lamp so you can regulate the temperature.
6. Combine Vegetable Oil and Methoxide
Slowly pour in your methoxide solution to the vegetable oil flask. If you really need to, use another flask to avoid spillage.
7. Stir Mixture and Maintain Temperature
Now, it’s time to turn on the magnetic stirrer. Start from the lowest speed and slowly increase it until you see the mixture whirling around the flask. To increase bio-diesel yield, keep the mixture in the stirrer for at least two hours while keeping track of its temperature from time to time.
8. Keep Glycerin Drained
As the stirring continues, bio-diesel will start to form along with a chemical called glycerin. You are only interested in bio-diesel now, so drain glycerin using the stopcock function of your funnel. You can use it for other purposes, though, so it is wise to keep it in a separate container.
9. Create a Simple Distillation Setup
Distill the excess methanol by putting the flask in water with a temperature of just below boiling. This will cause the methanol to evaporate then condensate in the center tube, which will eventually drip down to a separate flask.
10. Clean the Bio-Diesel
Clean the bio-diesel produced by adding tap water, which will further reduce the amount of glycerin and lye residue in it.
11. Separate the Water From the Fuel
Separate the tap water from the bio-diesel using an air pump you might see in an aquarium.
12. Repeat the Cleaning Steps as Necessary
Keep repeating steps 11 and 12 until there is no longer unwanted residue in it.
Proceed to dry the bio-diesel by inserting the air pump’s hose in its flask and let it run for three days or longer.
14. Test Out Your Bio-Diesel
You now have a usable bio-diesel that you can use to run your kerosene heater or lamp. Enjoy!
Here is a video that shows a simple process for making biodiesel.
While it is not advisable to try to make your own kerosene, I hope this article has given you some ideas on either finding a substitute or learning to make your own bio-diesel as a hobby or even for practical use. Just be sure to always keep safety in mind. If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes in the comments below. And, if I ever get around to trying it myself, I’ll update the article and give my results.
Thanks for reading!