Petroleum benzine is a hydrocarbon-based solvent mixture that is classified by its physical properties (e.g. boiling point, vapor pressure) rather than a specific chemical composition, often obfuscating distinction within the long list of petroleum distillate solvent mixtures: mineral spirits, naphtha, white spirits, petroleum spirits, turps substitute, mineral turpentine, petroleum benzine, petroleum ether, ligroin, and Stoddard Solvent. The chemical composition of a petroleum distillate can also be modified to afford a solvent with reduced concentration of unsaturated hydrocarbons, i.e. alkenes, by hydrotreating and/or reduced aromatics, e.g. benzene, toluene xylene, by several dearomatization methods. In a document that attempts to draw more concise distinctions between hydrocarbon solvents, conservator Alan Phenix explains that the most important distinction amongst the various hydrocarbon solvents are their boiling/distillation ranges (and, by association, volatility, flash point etc.) and aromatic content. Given the toxicity/carcinogenicity of some aromatic hydrocarbons, most notably benzene, the aromatic content of petroleum distillate solvents, which would normally be in the 10-25% (w/w) range for most petroleum fractions, can be advantageously reduced when their special solvation properties are not required and a less odorous, lower toxicity solvent is desired, especially when present in consumer products. Phenix further points out that "To all intents and purposes petroleum benzine appears synonymous with petroleum spirit." Petroleum spirit is generally considered to be the fractions between the very lightest hydrocarbons, petroleum ether, and the heavier distillates, mineral spirits. For example, petroleum benzine with a boiling range of 36 - 83 °C sold by EMD Millipore under CAS-No. 64742-49-0 is identified in the product MSDS as hydrotreated light petroleum distillates comprising ≥ 90% C5-C7 hydrocarbons, n-alkanes, isoalkanes, and < 5% n-hexane, while Santa Cruz Biotechnology sells a petroleum ether product under the same CAS-No. Fisher Scientific offers a product ‘Benzine (Petroleum Naphtha)' that retails for a high price that would suggest it is a speciality product but in fact conforms to Marathon Petroleum's 'VM&P Naphtha' (Varnish Makers & Painters’ Naphtha) found widely distributed in many hardware stores in North America.
According to their corresponding MSDS, most commercially offered petroleum benzine solvents consist of parrafins (alkanes) with chain lengths of C5 to C9 (i.e.n-pentane to n-nonane and their isomers), cycloparaffins (cyclopentane, cyclohexane, ethylcyclopentane, etc.) and aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene, etc.). The TSCA Definition 2008 describes petroleum benzine as "a complex combination of hydrocarbons obtained by treating a petroleum fraction with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. It consists of hydrocarbons having carbon numbers predominantly in the range of C4 through C11 and boiling in the range of approximately -20°C to 190°C."
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