Monday, April 22, 2013


Benzole is a mixture of benzene and toluene that originates in the process of "coking" of coal.
When used for many industrial processes, bituminous coal must first be "coked" to remove volatile components. It is done by heating the coal in the absence of oxygen, which drives off volatile hydrocarbons such as propane, benzene and other aromatic hydrocarbons, and some sulfur gases. This also drives off a considerable amount of the contained water of the bituminous coal. Coking coal is used in the manufacture of steel, where carbon must be as volatile-free and ash-free as possible. Coking coal is also heated to produce coke, a hard, grey, porous material which is used to blast in furnaces for the extraction of iron from the iron ore. Apparently riders started using benzole in their Royal Enfields as this letter to the editor of July 13th 1913 attests.

Benzole was later used as a propellant for shells in World War I. The end of the war generated a surplus, which led to the formation of the National Benzole Company that marketed it mixed with gasoline in what was called the National Benzole Mixture for use in automobiles. The company was eventually amalgamated with BP and Shell-Mex in the 1960's into what was then known as British Petroleum and now is known as BP (which they now claim stands for "Beyond petroleum", something not quite appreciated in Louisiana lately). The mixture was dropped in the 1960's and the company sold regular gasoline under the brand National. It became ubiquitous through a promo campaign involving the Smurfs.

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