Kerosene and jet fuel

Jet fuel is kerosene, with anti-freeze (Jet A-1) or naphtha (Jet B).

Could a jet be run on straight kerosene, unmodified? What would happen? Could older jet engines, say in the decade after WWII, have run on pure kerosene?

I ask because in The House of Many Worlds, a 1951 parallel world novel by Sam Merwin, Jr., he fuels a flying car - with a jet engine that runs on the ground and in the air - by pulling up to a service station and filling up with kerosene out of a pump.

Why they have service stations that pump kerosene on a world without the concept of an internal combustion engine is more of a mystery. Anyone who’d like to try that question, jets away.

Do they have lamps, heaters, or stoves that burn kerosene in this alternate world?

None are mentioned. The cities all have electricity, although “not once was the skyline broken by the pylons of a high-tension line.”

It’s a fun book, but the details contradict each other all the way through.

Jet engines will run on pretty much anything. You can burn unleaded pump gas. I always joke you could burn powdered coal, if you could find a way to get it in the combustion chamber. You could burn leaded gas in an emergency, but you were time-limited because of the lead build up on the turbine blades.

The B-36 fed its jet engines from the same fuel tanks as its 6 piston engines.

The real reason there are so many fuel is the other properties. Avgas is more volatile, and you can get (effectively) vapor lock at altitudes. Plus the whole explody-thing. Jet fuel is less volatile (though watching jet airliner crashes, with the huge fireball, you might wonder. But generally, if you drop a lit match in jet fuel, the match will go out. It’s basically diesel.).

JP-5 is even less volatile, which is why the Navy used it.

The fuel differences make their appearance at extreme conditions. High altitude, cold temperatures, humidity, all affect how the fuel behaves in the aircraft. With some jet fuels, too much water and never draining you fuel tanks can give you what is known as “apple jelly”, a karo-syrup like buildup than can clog your fuel system.

Also, the choice of elastomers for O-rings and other seals depends on which fuel you are using. These days, it’s not as critical, but in the past some elastomers reacted poorly with different fuels.

In brief, you can use pretty much anything in the short term. Long term might cause breakdowns of the fuel system components.

Turbines can run on just about any fluid that burns. There are plenty of stories about turbines being tested with high proof alcoholic drinks and alcohol based perfumes. Kerosene is an excellent solvent, and not highly volatile, so if they do have some use for a flammable liquid kerosene is a pretty safe one. I believe some of the Nazi turbo jets did use kerosene (diesel fuel).

Yes, definitely so:

Is it true that the only difference between heating oil and diesel is that one is taxed more?

There are additives for lubrication, preventing build-up of combustion products, and to prevent low temperature congealing that differ according to purpose. Plus the dye used to identify the different purposes for the oil.

If they have external combustion engines like steam engines then a liquid fuel would be desirable and kerosene would be preferable for the reasons we use it now, it has a very high caloric content per pound.

it’s the same base fuel, but on-road diesel fuel is limited to 15 parts per million of sulfur. Plus it has lubricity additives to protect the fuel system hardware in the vehicle, and anti-thickening additives for cold weather.

I don’t know if heating oil is allowed more sulfur (diesel used to be capped at 500 ppm) but it is dyed red to make it detectable. people in rural areas have been popped for having red fuel in their pickup trucks.


gas turbines are internal combustion engines.

None are ever mentioned. There are cars on the road, which apparently look like ordinary cars since the heroes say nothing about their oddness. And they get away with having a weird-looking car with a jet engine and folding wings - on a world where no flight has ever developed - by saying it’s British. It’s like the prototype for the Coneheads.

From what I’ve heard, there’s red-dyed diesel that gets a different tax rate for farm vehicles like tractors and combines, and it’s illegal to fill up your pickup with your implement diesel and drive it on-road.

Diesel fuel is a catch-all term for a certain set of fractions of distilled petroleum. Kerosene is similar, but lighter fractions for the most part.

The fuel oil grading system has kerosene listed as #1 fuel oil, and diesel/heating oil as #2 fuel oil. They go down from there to #6, or residual fuel oil, which is so thick it has to be heated before it can be burned.

The military’s JP-8 fuel is kerosene based, and is used in both diesel engines and jet engines. So put simply, a HMMWV, an M1 tank, a F-16 fighter, a UH-60 helicopter and all the Army’s transport and logistics trucks all burn the same fuel, which is a kerosene-based fuel. Navy aviation uses a slightly different fuel with a higher flash-point for fire-safety purposes.

So practically speaking, there’s not too much difference between kerosene, diesel and jet fuel.

Perhaps Ringworm is endemic on this planet.

SD nitpick alert!

Technically, that’s no longer true. At least the Army (can’t speak for the other branches, but I believe they have as well) stopped using JP-8 and now uses Jet-A with additives (NATO Spec F24). It’s cheaper.

It’s almost the same thing, but “almost” is in the details. I don’t consider them equivalent, but do they listen to me? Noooo.

Not a joke. It has been done before :

Albeit with limited success. There are a lot of patents on it too.

For the purposes of what I was trying to say in the thread, this just hammers home that for a lot of purposes, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel are fungible, even if JP-8, Jet A-1 and Jet-A with additives aren’t exactly identical.

Marine Gas turbine engines run on good old Bunker “C”.

Small nit pick. It is not heated so much so it will burn but so that it can be pumped.

In 2007, I believe it was, the US trucking industry, following EPA rulings, started to switch from Low Sulfur Diesel (LSD) at 500 ppm sulfur to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) at 5 ppm sulfur, not 15 ppm. I think it was at that point when Caterpiller said “Screw this, we’re doing fine with building marine and construction diesels. We’re leaving the OTR business.” Leaving it to Detroit Diesel and Cummings. Okay, Volvo makes some of their own engines too, but the 1st I drove had a Detroit and the 2nd had a Cummings. I loved the 14 speed auto tranny in the second one.

Red diesel is legal for farm equipment and construction equipment. For Over The Road use, it’s yellowish/green In 12 years of driving, I think they only checked my fuel twice.

Cheap driveway sealant too :slight_smile:

If that red diesel was subsidized somebody’s gonna be paying fines.