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Sulaiman
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[*] posted on 8-5-2017 at 06:50
Help! ... 25 litres of mystery liquid


I have relieved a neighbour of a 25 litre plastic (I think hdpe) drum that was dumped in their front garden 3 to 5 years ago and kept outdoors since then, not knowing what to do with it.
Hydrochloric acid was suspected.

It is actually a light straw coloured, clear liquid, that smells somewhat like white spirit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spirit
It burns with a yellow flame and some sooty smoke on a wooden splint but will not burn on concrete.
It appears imiscible with water, the yellow tint does not enter the water.
Freshly cut sodium does not tarnish within 10 min. when under this liquid, almost no bubbles seen forming.
Using alcoholmeter hydrometers, at 15oC I got a reading of 85 %ABV,

SMpic.jpg - 407kB
(methylene blue and HNO3 with NO2 and Zephyr/SM-yellow for coulour reference)

corrected to 20oC that is 86 %ABV, if ethanol and water, density = 0.828, which is quite a bit higher than white spirit.
Probably not too helpful due to multiple 'ingredients'

IF I believe there to be no seriously toxic contaminants I shall fractionally distill the mystery liquid, the boiling points wil give more data.
So,
what should I do next, especially what contaminants should I look for ?

[Edited on 8-5-2017 by Sulaiman]




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JJay
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[*] posted on 8-5-2017 at 07:01


That's about right for kerosene, especially if it has been sitting around a long time and some of the more volatile components evaporated. It could also be jet fuel, a light diesel, or even bad gasoline that has been sitting around a long time.



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[*] posted on 8-5-2017 at 08:28


I second that opinion. That looks exactly like diesel fuel but only because our "non-highway-use" kerosene and heating oil is dyed pink. It could be either one.

If you distill it, you'll probably get some waxy residues as self-condensation products because it has been sitting so long. It won't have a really defined BP; you'll get a range instead. IIRC the density of diesel is ~0.83 and kerosene is ~0.81 which is pretty close to your reading.




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Sulaiman
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[*] posted on 8-5-2017 at 11:13


That sounds logical,
Wednesday is forecast to be a nice day, maybe I'll be able to do a distillation.
Thanks.





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[*] posted on 8-5-2017 at 11:54


Why would anybody dump 25 liters of good diesel into your neighbours yard, though?

I wander if the previous owner used it to extract an illegal substance. Diesel is occasionally used, for instance, to extract certain alkaloids.
There likely remains a small amount of that substance dissolved in it.
If you were interested in it, you could try an extraction with dilute acid, but that may well be illegal wherever you are located and perhaps it is better not to know and to just burn the stuff for its fuel value.

[Edited on 8-5-2017 by phlogiston]




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Sulaiman
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[*] posted on 30-5-2017 at 18:45


I chickened out of the distillation,
I decided that I'm not ready for huge (by my standards) volumes of boiling kerosene between 150 °C and 275 °C,
so I am now considering a vacuum/reduced pressure distillation at lower temperatures,
hopefully below the atmospheric pressure autoignition temperature (does it help ?)
I will start with about 250 ml in a 500ml rbf with a short path condenser.
I've not done reduced pressure distillation with other than water based mixtures,
can anyone advise of danger that I may be unaware of please ?




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Corrosive Joeseph
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[*] posted on 30-5-2017 at 19:12


I distilled petrol, a few times with a vacuum and a few times with none...........

I sealed up the system, except when I wasn't using vacuum I ran a LONG orange bottle gas hose off the vacuum adapter, out the window (yes, I did it in the house........ :o) and took the other end FAR away from the me, the house and any source of spark or ignition.

You could even leave the last half inch of the hose in a bucket of water, any slight pressure should pop out a bubble at a time while keeping the end of the hose actually sealed from the atmosphere. But I do live in a remote rural location...........

My recieving flask sat in a jug of ice water and I gave the condenser the coldest water I could, in some kind of attempt to condense all the vapours I could.

Worked a treat and the thermometer gave me real vapour temp readings..........

Petrol is easier to light off at equivalent temperatures.............. Kerosene has more BTUs, when it does go bang there is a bigger one..........!!!

It was without a doubt my most exciting distillation to date........... Apart from EtOH, it was also my first one :D


/CJ

[EDIT] - PS, I was doing 650ml batch in a one litre flask with a home made SS scrubber column and a 500ml SS condensing tube.................

[Edited on 31-5-2017 by Corrosive Joeseph]

[Edited on 31-5-2017 by Corrosive Joeseph]




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[*] posted on 30-5-2017 at 19:18


I think your plan is OK. But you really don't know what's in that liquid so that is a risk. I presume you are doing this mostly out of curiosity.

Some thoughts:

1. Doing a vacuum distillation adds its own special risk, i.e., implosion.
2. Flammable solvents are not a problem as long as oxygen is rigorously excluded. I've distilled several including ether. Keep air out and provide good ventilation.




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[*] posted on 31-5-2017 at 02:19


I'm guessing it is E85 of biodiesel - I have both that look identical to that and they both often come in 20 or 25L drums - or it could be someone's own attempt at one of these fuels.?
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[*] posted on 31-5-2017 at 17:17


Since you have a lot of it you could try some chemical tests to narrow on what kind of liquid it is. Search for double bonds, oxygenated functional groups and stuff like that on a test tube scale before trying to distill it.



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Sulaiman
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[*] posted on 1-6-2017 at 03:48
battoussai114


Good suggestion, thanks.

Potassium permanganate is rapidly reduced by this mystery liquid from purple to brown,
so there must be a lot of double bonds as the liquid is able to reduce quite a quantity of KMnO4
I neither basified or acidified the KMnO4

I'm not keen on permangenometry so I will try to determine the iodine value of this liquid later today, just out of curiosity.




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[*] posted on 1-6-2017 at 22:35


Very nice Patch you've got there! And interesting mystery as well. . .

You mentioned it didn't burn on concrete, will it only burn when a flame is held to it?

The sooty flame confirms your unsaturated hydrocarbon idea, I wonder if it could be styrene?

The yellow could be contaminants as others have guessed or it could be picric acid or hydroquinone used to stabilize the styrene.

If you don't want to distill you could try putting a test tube with a small amount of the liquid in boiling water in a well ventilated area and see how quickly, and if it evaporates to give a rough idea of its boiling point.

Also, it seems odd that the barrel doesn't have any markings on it...



[Edited on 6-2-2017 by Zephyr ]




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[*] posted on 2-6-2017 at 11:51


It's probably old, partially-contaminated diesel fuel that was in some old man's garage for over a decade, then he died, and his kids had no idea what it was so they tossed it in your neighbor's yard so it was their problem now.

The reason it won't burn on concrete is probably just because diesel fuel isn't very volatile. You can put out a lit match by dipping it in diesel fuel, for instance.
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Corrosive Joeseph
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[*] posted on 3-6-2017 at 03:13


Possibly somebody was making space for something else in the boot (or trunk for our american friends) and drove off without it...........

Or maybe some rogue (insert whatever expletive you like here) was stealing it out of a vehicle/tank one night and dumped it in a panic.........

Who knows how these mystery liquids fall out of the sky


/CJ







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[*] posted on 3-6-2017 at 11:42


Don't forget that kerosene (and similar) are used as solvents for pesticides.
If it's full of DDT this would show it up.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beilstein_test
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