Development of the Gas Industry
AE 682 Technology of Preservation
GAS PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURE
The gas Industry
STRUCTURE S DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAS INDUSTRY
Manufacturing Methods and Processes
Amonia and Tar
Cost of Manufacture of Gas
GAS SUPPLY IN THE UNITED STATES
First Gas Plant
Growth and Changes in the Industry
Changing Processes and Row Materials
Liquefied Petroleum Gases
Storage of Gas
The use of Gas
LIST OF SLIDES
*XEROX SECTION FROM A HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY. VOL. 4., INDUS-
TRIAL REVOLUTION (1750-1850). GAS FOR LIGHT AND HEAT.
GAS PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURE
The Gas Industry.
Despite the increasing use of oil, coal remains as the
primary source of heat and energy for industries and homes
In Great Britain alone, there is a coal production of
220,000,000 tons a year of which 40,000,000 tons are processed
annually to produce secondary and derived fuels such as gas
and coke. There are several types of gaseous fuels, some
of which are derived from coal and other which are derived
from coke. Coke, along with coke gas is derived by heating
coal in the absence of air. The process known as carboniza-
tion is still by for the most important way by which to
obtain derived fuels from coal or aoke. Other gases are
produced by a method of gasification which involves the addition
of steam upon red hot coke or coal. (water gas). Producer
gas, another type of derived fuel is obtain by blowing air
usually mixed with some steam, through a deep bed of hot
coke or coal. Coal gas has the highest heating value, of about
500 BTU per cubic foot, water gas averages about 300 BTU and
producer gas is about 120 to 160 BTU per cubic foot.
The familiar gas, or town gas which is supplied to the
public after purefication is cook gas or coal gas mixed with
water gas. Producer gas is used mainly for large scale
Structure and Development of the Gas Industries
Coal was first used as an illuminat. The earliest
demonstration of the use of coal as an illuminat has been
attributed to several inventors; Philippe Lebon, Lord
Dondonald and William Murdock. However, William Murdock is
usually given the credit for being the first one to apply
coal gas on any considerable scale. Murdock set up a small
experimental gas plant in 1795 and a few years later he used
gas to light a factory in Birmingham, England.
In the year 1813 the London and Westmister Gas Company
was founded and it soon become the famous Gas Light and Coke
Company. This company fossexed three manufactory plants
with 15 miles of mains and the Westmister bridge was lit
by its gas. By 1823 gas lighting was introduced to Bristol
and by this time the Gas and Coke Company was producing about
250,000,000 Cu Ft of gas annually to be distributed through
122 miles of street mains. A rapid expansion of the gas
industry followed and by 1860 the gas companies that had
developed in the Metropolis as well as in the rural areas
were recorded as innumerable. Public supply was governed
by many local and general acts of Parliament. With the
development of electric lighting in 1882 the gas industry
encounter serious competition which seemed to threaten
the future of the industry. However, competition created
a stimulus to look for other alternative by which to dispose
of the product and the capacity of gas as a heating medium
was soon recognized. In the year 1930 the Gas Regulation
Act was passed by Parlament, the main provision of which
tesmake it obligatory to charge for gas on the bases of its
declared heating value, furthermore, gas had to be supplied
at a minimum pressure of 2 in water gauge in mains or
services of 2 in of more in diameter. This early regulation
were introduced to protect the interest of the consumers.
At this time, the actual production of Gas in England had
risen to 250,000,000,000 cubic feet and there were
7,000,000 consumers receiving gas through 40,000 miles of
The gas industry passed into national ownership on
May 1 1949, in accordance to the provisions of the gas
act of 1948. Many of the provisions of the Acts which had
nationalized the coal and electric industries were repeated
in teh Gas Act of 1948, but there was one important difference,
there was a longer degree of decentralization and regional
distribution of responsibility which was granted to the Gas
Industry. Twelve area boards were constituted to assume
the ownership of 1,037 undertakings for the nation. These
boards were independent corporate bodies each dharged with the
duties of maintaining and developing an efficient and econo-
mical system for the supply of gas and coke as well as with a
method of recovering gas manufacture by-products.
Parliament decided that a central body was needed to
represent the Gas Industry as a whole and to be responsible
for such matters as capital finance, labor relations and other
various functions, thus, the Gas Council was created and it
consisted of a chairman, a deputy chairman and the twelve
chairmen of the area boards. Thus, the gas industry was
unified under a central body after 140 years of progressive
Research and development was specified to be one of the
responsibility of the Gas Counsil, however, the Gas Counsel
and the local area boards divided the responsibility as to
the degree and nature of the record to be done, with the
Gas Council in charge of the research leading to the improve-
ment of the pilot plants stage and the local boards in
charge with the research dealing with large scale plant
development and improvement of individual appliances. A
permanent committee which included scientist from outside
the gas industry, was formed to advice the Council on methods
of research, and research stations where established in
London and Birmingham.
The statistics for the year of 1953-54 showed that the
Gas Industry in Great Britain had a revenue of 170,138,000
Pound Sterline from selling, 2,451,000,000 therms of gas
(1 therm = 100,000 BTU)
Manufacturing Method and Process.
To understand the manufacturing of gas products, one
must understand the process of carbonization and the principals
involved in this process. At this point, it is necessary to
explain such process.
The term coal is applied to certain rocks in the earth
crust produced by the decay and accumulation of plant
remains, thus, coal is a complex mixture of organic matter
which so far can not be recognized except in very broad
terms. The principal elements that make up coal are, carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen with small particles of nitrogen and sulphur.
When coal is heated in the absence of air a chemical reaction
takes place which results in the decomposition and fusion of
coal. A gaseous volatile product results from this process
as well as a residue known as coke. Coke can be heated
at a higher temperature and it will also yield a gas made
out of hidrogen and carbon dioxide.
The manufacturing process of gas consist of extracting
the volatiel product by heat and leaving a residue of coke
in the retort for subsequent extraction. This volatile
product is known as crude gas and it contains a series of
constituents that most be removed prior to its distribution
to consumer. These constituents are; hydrogen vapours,
some sulphur containing gases and some hydrogen cyonide and
ammonia. Some sort of fusefecation process is needed to
eliminate these inpuritees. When the caude gas enters the
collecting main they are cooled and water is added so that
condensation takes place and this helps to wash away some
of the non-desirable constituents. As a result of the
condensation, the crude gas divides into three forts, a tor
and amonia liquor and the gas itself which after further
purification from a tor fog and residual amonia it is ready
Originally, in Murdock's apparatus for the production
gas iron retorts were used to extract the crude gas from
the cool. However, the volume of gas obtained by working
with iron retorts was limited by the propoerties of this
materials. An important advance was made when fire clay
substituted iron since higher temperature were permissible.
Futher improvement to the method of gas production followed
when in the heating of these retorts a gas recuperating
principal could be employed.
The recuperative principal for gas production results from
firing and heating the day retorts with a producer gas which
is returned to the system for further usage rather disposing
of it through a chimmey. The producer gas is made by
circulating air through a deep layer of red hot coke. This
gas is forced to meet a stream of hot air directly below the
retorts which ignites the gas around them and carbonizes
the coal therein. The waste gases after heating the retort,
are not disposed of as in the old method of "direct fixing",
but instead, they are turned downward into the recuperator
which reintroduces the waste gas, (after some purefication)
into the system, thus, maximizing efficiency and retaining
a greater heat capacity within the system.
Although horizontal retorts were very popular for the
production of gas, they have been almost totally replaced
by veritcal retorts which have proved to be more convenient
and efficient. The advantages of a vertical retort system
for the production of gas consist of a reduction in labour
as well as a reduction on the use of ground space for a given
output. Another novel advantage of the system consist of
the ability to have a continuous feed of coal as well as a
continuous retrieval of coke thus accelerating the process.
The ultimate goal of all improvement and legislation
that were introduced into the gas industry were intended
to permit an increase in manufacture and to obtain a better
gasefication of coal, that is, to obtain a longer proportion
of the potential heat of the gas in the manufacturing
One method to achieve this goal is to use highly refrac-
tory materials in the construction of the retorts so as to
be able to obtain a higher temperature within the retort
and thus have a higher yield of gas per ton of coal.
Another method used to increase the yield of gas per
ton of coal is known as steaming, the process of steaming
involves introducing steam into the base of th continuous
vertical gas retorts so as to make an addition to the overall
volume of the gas, (the carbon and the steam generate the
so called water gas). Sutdies have proved that when using
the process of steaming the volume of gas increases considerably
as well as the caloric value of the gas which increases to
approximately 20.8 therms per ton of gas.
The previously mentioned improvements on the production
and manufacture of gas has led to a greater thermal
efficiency; in other words, the total number of heat units
obtainable by the combustion of gas, coke and tar has become
more and more a higher proportion of the heat units original
contained in the carbonized coal. Improvements on the re-
fractory quality of the retorts, the recuperative principle
and the process of steaming as well as the ability to carry
through the process of carbonization at a higher temperature
have contributed to the thermal efficiency of the gas producing
As it was previously stated, the crude gas that results
from the process of carbonization of coal contains several
constituents that need to be eliminated before the gas can
be distributed for public use. Many of the constituents that
need to be eliminated from the crude gas can be easily
washed out or condensed. The process of purification takes
place in several stages of the gas manufacturing process.
First, the gas travels from the retort to the ascension pipe
where it is cooled and thus some condensation of tarry
matter occurs, further condensation results when gas from
several of the retorts are collected in a common hydralic
main. The next step in the purification process occurs when
the gas reaches the condensers which consist of a nest of
pipes cooled externally by air or water, thus, the temperature
is lowered resulting in further condensation of both water
and tar which is collected at the base of the pipes.
The next step is the washing and scrubbing of the gas,
this occurs by bringing the gas into contact with a liquid
substance (mainly water) that guarantees further removal
of undesireable constituents from the gas. Next in sequence
are the static and rotary washers, in which the gas is
brought in contact with water at a high pressure. The
amonia is completely removed from the gas at this stage.
Additional scrubbing with oil solvents might be necessary
to remove volatile tar constituents such as benzene and
toluene. The ultimate process of purification involves
passing the gas through iron oxide purifiers so as to eliminate
the hydrogen sulphide found on the gas, then the gas is stored
in gashholders until the time of its usage.
Amonia and Tar.
One of the usable by-products that results from the gas
producing industry is that of amonia and tar. This elements
are found in the residual liquors produced after condenzation
and they need to be distilled from this liquor prior to their
use in industry as constituents of such things as; perfumes,
medicine, desinfectants, solvents, plastic and paints.
Disposing of the residual matter that results from the
process of distillation could be a problem since it is a
very strong effluent and its direct disposal into streams
Cost of Manufacture of Gas.
The cost of the process of manufacture of gas greatly
depends on the size 'of the production units however, the
overall cost of large size production and manufacture of gas
can be broken down as follows; net cost of coal carbonized
60%, carbonization process 10%, purification process 1.0%,
power and sundry process 8.5%, maintenance and repairs 11.5%
and general charges 9%.
Gas Supply in the United States
First Gas Plant
The gas industry got its start in Baltimore after the
discovery of gas making from coal and the great success
of gas lighting in Europe. Although the is evidence of
previous use of gas by isolated individuals, the use of
gaslighting in the Rembrandt Peal's museum in Baltimore in
1816 mark the first time that gas lighting was used success-
fully in the United States at a longer scale. This initial
attempt prove to be aso successful that the city council
of Baltimore passed an ordinance on June 17 1816 permitting
the manufacture of gas and laying of pipes in the streets
for further use of gas lighting. The first demonstration
of the use of gas in the United States occurred in Philadelphia
in August 1796. The gas was produced by M. Ambraise and Co.
Italion firework and artist. A couple of years later in
1812 David Melville of Newport Rhode Island lit his home
with gas which he manufacture. However, Baltimore was the
first city to use gas commertially and other cities in the
United States followed.
Growth and Changes in the Industry
By the second half of the 20th century the gas industry
had grown into one of the major industires in the United
States, the gas industry has shown a great ability to adapt
to all sort of problems, from severe competition from the
electric industry to dostric economic and labour conditions.
The gas industry, initiated and maintained as a lighting
service, when the market was taken by the invention of the
electric light, the gas service emerged as a heating
producing industry. Again, during World War II when the
production of gas was hamper by severe labour and row material
shortages, the gas industry maintained and expanded the market
by obtaining more natural gas from transcontinental pipelines.
Changing Processes and Raw Materials.
Public utility gas first was manufacture gas made by
heating a highly volatile coal in a metal retort and subjecting
the resulting gas to cooling and purification. The water
gas process was introduced later. The work of Thaddeus Lowe,
a union balloon officer in the Civil War, was of major impor-
tance in the development of the economic manufacture of
water gas in internally fixed machines. This become the
basis for carburetted and blue'water gas processes. Internally
fixed oil gas processes were developed before World War II
but these were used very little in the United States specially
when natural gas become more and more available.
The change from manufacture gas to natural gas was of
major importance to the gas industry of the United States.
Teh exploitation of natural gas resulted from teh discovery
of larbe reserves of natural gas in the midwest and southwest
areas in the United States during the 1920.
In 1925, electrically welded pipelines allowed for the
transportation of oil and gas for long distances economically.
This become an important factor specially after World War II
since this made the production of gas based on solid fuels
generally uneconomical. By the mid 1950s, the interstate
transportation of natural gas had become so great that
except for a few states, there was no major city in the
United States beyond the reach of natural gas supplies. The
long distance transmission of natural gas change the engineering
and economic problems of the gas industry. It involved a
great economic investment in long pipelines and changes in
manufacture and storage of the gas.
A number of oil gas processes have been discovered and
developed to utilize the cheaper grades of heavy oils.
Characteristic of these heavy oil developments has been the
ability to manufacture high heat combustion gases such
that they may be distributed for use in mixture with or
as substitutes for natural gas. Where mixed gases of a
particular thermal content less than natural gas are
distributed, these gases need to be processed in machines of
the water gas or oil gas type so'as to control their volume,
thermal content and combustion characteristic so as to meet
production and mixing needs. The adapting process may involve
partial combustion or a reaction with steam or a combination
After World War II, a unique method to develop the gas
making process occurred in the discovery of the catalyctic
The feed stock may be propane, natural gas, butane,
refine oil gases or natural gasoline. The reforming catalyst
is carried in chrome nickel alloy tubes, externally heated,
usually with light fuel oil. The tubes are filled with a nickel
oxide catalyst and the reforming gas zone is maintained
at a temperature of 18000F. The type of reform gas depends on
the mixture of air and steam with the proportion of the feed
stock. The reformed gas is then enriched with undecomposed
feed stock. This process of gas production requires minimum
labour and the capital investment is low, purefication
of the gas is not necessary. All these factors make this
type of gas manufacturing very appealing to the gas industry.
Although natural gas had been noted in the United States
before manufacture gas was introduced, it was not used
commecially until long after manufactured gas had been
In 1821, at Fredonia, New York, the first natural gas
well of the United States was driled to a depth of 27 feet.
In 1854, the first deep gas well was sunk in Erie, Pensel-
vania. (1200 Ft.O In 1859, the petroleum industry started
in Titusville, Penselvania. Natural gas has always been
associated with petroleum in the earth crust, but early oil
ment ignore the potential of natural gas and usually learned
the gas mines by using a pipe that would act as a giant
The first natural gas corporation in the United States
was the Fredonia Gas Light and Water Work Co. of 1854.
Many other corporations followed all over the United States
thereafter. By the mid 50's there were about 70,000 gas
well in the United States; and along with gas producing
oil wells, there was a total production of about
8,500,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The reserves of
natural gas in the United States are estimated at
500,000,000,000,000 cubic feet.
Lquiefied Petroleum Gases
Liquefied petroleum gases; propane and butane have
been obtained from natural gas condensates at wellheads in
compression operations. Propane has sufficient high vapour
pressure to permit it to be distributed as a gas without the
need of admixture. Butane requires a carrier gas. A
mixture of propane-butane is usually compressed into steel
cylinders and sold as bottled gas.
Storage of Gas
Gas has a great advantage over electricity in that
gas can easily be store for public consumption where as
electricity needs to be consumed as it is generated. This
allows the gas producing company to design their factories
forr average rather than peak conditions of consumer
demand, thus, saving a great deal of capital investment. Gas
is usually stored in very large storage tanks that require
The Use of Gas
In industry alone, there was estimated that there are
21,000 different uses for gas. These include glassmaking,
metal production, food processing, printing, textile production,
electronic equipment and manufacture of plastic and paints.
In teh mid 1950's, there were 33,000,000 families that
cooked with gas and 18,000,000 used gas to heat water, 15,000,000
heated their homes with gas and 4,000,000 families owned gas
Natural gas is an important raw material for the synthesis
of petrochemicals. These are chemicals that are synthesized
from rock sources, such as natural gas, petroleum or coal.
Important end products are amonia, alcohol, synthetic, fibres
plastic and detergents.
A HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY
Singe, Houmyard, Hall and Williams
Vol. 4, Industrial Revolution 1750-1850
Oxford Press. @ 1958
VAN NOSTRAND'S SCIENTIFIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
D. Van Nostrand Company Inc. @ 1968
INSTITUTIONS OF GAS ENGINEER'S.
Loudon Publishing Co. @ 1944
HISTORY OF LIGHTING
C.E. Tuttle Co. @ 1964
William Benton, Publisher. 1957 edition.
LIST OF SLIDES
SLIDE NO. DESCRIPTION
1 Gensamne's early coke oven.
2 Lebon's first gas making plant.
4 Gas appliance of Z.A. Wingler
5 Murdock's first retort.
6 Detail of hydraulic seal
7 Murdock's horizontal retort
8 Wet Meter
9 3/4 in. iron pipe.
10 Sugg Argand Burner
11 Sharp's Gas Cooking Apparatus
12 Vertical Retort Instalation
13 Modern Gas Manufacture.
14 Blue Water Gas Plant
15 Old type gas Producer
16 Water gas plant.
17 Diagram of a gas producer
18 Deep gas producer