Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner

ScalesKerosene - Why is it now RED?

Bureau of Weights and Measures

Many consumers have been wondering lately why they can't find clear or water-white kerosene at the corner gas station. They are finding that the station that used to carry the clear stuff is now carrying only the red kerosene. This is federal issue involving the Internal Revenue Service. The following information is provided to help answer some of the questions surrounding this issue.

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 changed the rules for selling kerosene at retail. Under the Act, kerosene was designated a taxable fuel similar to on-road diesel fuel. To assure that the proper taxes are collected, several new measures have been enacted. Retailers selling heating fuels are faced with a choice of continuing to offer clear kerosene with restrictions, or changing to dyed kerosene. Many are choosing the dyed option.

The dye is used to differentiate untaxed fuels that are dyed red from the taxable fuels that are clear. For more information on the IRS rules you may contact the IRS. You can find some information in Publication 510 on the IRS website.

Under IRS rules, Clear Kerosene dispensers will be marked:
"Undyed Untaxed Kerosene, Nontaxable Use Only".

Dyed Kerosene dispensers will be marked:
"Dyed Kerosene, Nontaxable Use Only, Penalty for Taxable Use".

The dye is not supposed to affect the performance of the fuel in portable space heaters. The manufacturers of the wick-type heaters (e.g. Kerosun, Toyostove, and Monitor) have indicated that they will continue to honor warrantees on the heaters if the fuel is dyed. They stipulate that the fuel must otherwise meet the appropriate standards for K-1 kerosene. The only side effect reported with dyed kerosene is some coloration in the heater wick. For more information on kerosene heaters, safety tips, and getting the right fuel for your heater, contact your dealer or the heater manufacturer.

Kerosene comes in two grades, K-1 and K-2. The major difference is the sulfur content. The sulfur levels in K-1 are kept below 0.05% by weight, which makes the fuel suitable for unvented heaters. The sulfur levels in grade K-2 may reach 0.5%. The K-2 grade is often used in mobile home furnaces that are vented. Under Weights and Measures Regulations, the dispenser must clearly identify the product as kerosene and identify the grade. You should look for the K-1 or 1K marking on the pump to be sure you are getting the correct fuel for your portable heater.

There is some concern that dyed kerosene may mask some impurities that would normally be visible. Users are being advised to inspect each batch of new kerosene to be sure that it is either, clear and colorless or clear and dyed red. The dyed fuel should have a crystal clear appearance, much like a blush wine. If the fuel is cloudy, it may indicate contamination problems with water or other impurities.

At present there are no regulations in New York covering the quality of heating fuels. If you have a problem with the quality of kerosene you purchased, contact your fuel supplier.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Bureau of Weights and Measures
10B Airline Drive
Albany, New York 12235
(518) 457-3146

Revised: March 18, 2008