Naphtha a.k.a White Gas (Fuel)

Coleman Camp Stove Fuel


VM&P Naphtha, Ronsonol, Zippo Lighter Fluid

Article authored and edited by Eric Bagai, EJ “Tedward” LeCouteur and Carisa Hendrix

Naphtha, White Gas, Naphthalene and Mineral Spirits1 are the most common terms used to refer to this flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons. Common products made with it include lighter fluid, fuel for camp stoves, and some cleaning solvents.

 

Stats

Fuel used in: Fire Eating, Fire Poi, Fire Hoop and Fire Buugeng.
Not recommended for: Fire Breathing
Flash Point: 44°C 2
Gravity: 0.75–0.785 g/cm3
Boiling Point: 160–220 °C (320–430 °F)
Vapor Pressure: Less than 5 torr (5 mm Hg).
Color: colorless (kerosene odor) or red-brown (aromatic odor) liquid
Insoluble in Water: Yes

MSDS Sheets

MSDS Coleman Fuel
MSDS VM&P Naphtha
MSDS Zippo Fluid
MSDS Ronsonol Lighter Fluid

Qualities

Naphtha is comprised of shorter chain hydrocarbons (c5-c7), can be aromatic (sweet smelling and carcinogenic), and can contain sulfuric compounds or other impurities. It most often consists of paraffins with colorants and a thiol for scent. It has the lowest boiling point of all the petrols, which gives it the highest vapor pressure. This means that it will produce flammable vapors whenever it’s not contained in a vapor-seal container, but those vapors will disperse quickly if well ventilated.

Naphtha is very easy to light (it’s always producing fumes), burns on many surfaces (including ice), will evaporate quickly (in about 15 minutes) from most surfaces, and must be very carefully contained at all times. Unfortunately, since it can contain a high percentage of aromatics, it can also be smoky, toxic and carcinogenic. Some naphtha-based fuels (Coleman) have a somewhat reduced aromatic content, but many are naturally high or augmented in aromatics. Because few makers are willing or able to purify naphtha products down to strictly alkanes and naphthanes, avoid internal use unless you have a very specific knowledge and understanding of the aromatic content.

From a performance standpoint, you can’t ever trust this fuel in open containers. If you have a dip can, make sure it has a vapor-seal lid. Make sure your dip cans are closed when fire is around, don’t allow smoking near any large quantity of Naphtha, and try to keep your fuel station well ventilated.

On the other hand, this fuel is one of the few that can be used for contact fire (raking), will burn off the ground for spin-out tricks, and produces the biggest, brightest, hottest flames possible. It’s hard to extinguish while spinning so you can go absolutely crazy when you spin it. Camp fuel sources of naphtha tend to be fairly consistent in quality within a given brand, but may vary greatly between different brands.

Health

Many forms of naphtha may be carcinogenic, and frequently products sold as naphtha contain some impurities which may also have harmful properties of their own. Like many hydrocarbon products, they are products of a refining process in which a complex soup of chemicals is broken into another range of chemicals, which are then graded and isolated mainly by their specific gravity and volatility

Common Errors

White gasoline is sometime also refereed to as white gas. White gasoline is a pure gasoline, without additives. This was commonly used when leaded gasoline was the norm, to prevent fouling in situations where the properties of the tetraethyl lead additive were not required.3

Sometime performers will make the error of purchasing white gasoline rather that Naphtha when using the term “white gas”

  1. NAFAA Wiki []
  2. Naphtha ICSC []
  3. Texas Power Gasoline []

Comments

  1. avatar Andrew Hammond says:

    I think this can also be purchased as “Panel Wipe” cleaner, used by body shops before painting.

  2. avatar Carisa Hendrix says:

    My concern with “Panel wipe” is that the MSDS sheet says 60-100% low flash point hydrocarbon. I’m not sure what else they put it into it that might be more corrosive or toxic than the alternatives.

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hex.co.uk%2FMSDS%2Ftrade%2FTPW%2520Panel%2520Wipe.pdf

  3. I’ve noticed that K1 grade kerosene (used for cleaning and as fuel for heaters) that can be found at some hardware stores is very similar to Coleman fuel. However
    K1 burns a bit hotter and brighter than Coleman fuel. MSDS http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9924436

    The chemicals that we work with are no joke.

    I believe that the potential health effects should be address under the “health” section.
    “INHALATION
    Tests on similar material indicate the possibility of the following symptoms: headache, nasal and respiratory irritation,
    nausea, drowsiness, breathlessness, fatigue, central nervous system depression, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. “

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