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When the demand for oil-based fuels for lighting and other purposes began to soar in the 19th century, scientists began searching for a way to make use of crude oil. This research led to techniques in which crude oil was broken down, or refined, into a number of different fuels, including kerosene and gasoline. As consumer demand continued to increase, commercial refineries were set up to purify crude oil. The new petroleum products produced as a result of the development and perfection of the refining process led to the use of oil-based fuels in many consumer and industrial applications. These include the use of gasoline to power automobiles, and the use of oil for heating and for the generation of electrical power.

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