Hydrocarbons

Aliphatic hydrocarbon solvents, petroleum hydrocarbon solvents

The aliphatic hydrocarbons may be of straight chain, branched or cyclic molecular structure. Aliphatic hydrocarbons such as alkanes, isoparaffins and alkenes are the major components of gasoline. Many solvents can contain a blend of different aliphatic types or aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons depending on the end use. Common aliphatic solvents are e.g. mineral spirits, petroleum naptha, petroleum distillate, cyclohexane, octane, pentane or isopentane, nonane.

Hydrocarbons may contain traces or larger amounts of aromatic compounds (check your SDS) and these may cause cancer. However the alkanes themselves cause nonallergic contact dermatitis, adverse effects on the central nervous system and fetal problems. N-hexane has a special neurotoxic effect.

Petroleum hydrocarbons are available in two grades, the basic petroleum distillates and the specialty grade of synthetic paraffinic hydrocarbons. Products of the petroleum distillate grade include mineral spirits, kerosene, white spirits, naphtha. These are technologically less advanced, as they contain components that have a broad range of boiling points and may include trace amounts of benzene derivatives and other aromatics. Petroleum distillates were available many years before chlorinated solvents attained their popularity. More recently, improved separation and synthesis techniques have led to the production of the specialty grade of paraffinic hydrocarbons. Paraffins are straightchain, branched, or cyclic alkanes; they are aliphatic as opposed to aromatic (i.e., derived from benzene and naphthalene). The number of carbons in the paraffin solvent typically ranges from 10 to 14. Compared to petroleum distillates, the paraffinic hydrocarbons have very low aromatic content, narrower boiling ranges, and higher solvency, and they are more expensive.

They are typically used when water contact with the parts is undesirable. Cleaning with petroleum distillates lends itself to simple, inexpensive, one-step cleaning in situations where a high level of cleanliness is not essential. Petroleum hydrocarbons have high solvencies for many “hard-to-clean” organic soils, including heavy oil and grease, tar, arid waxes. In addition, they have low liquid surface tension, which allows them to penetrate and clean small spaces.

No water is used with hydrocarbon cleaners, so there is no potential for water corrosion or for water to become trapped in cavities. Some precision cleaning operations are most effective with hydrocarbon cleaners. The primary pollution prevention benefits of petroleum hydrocarbon solvents are that they produce no wastewater and they are recyclable by distillation. Paraffinic grades have very low odor and aromatic content and low evaporative loss rates. However, planned recovery of VOCs is an important part of pollution prevention if these solvents are to be used.

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