January 2022

100th Anniversary

Advancing processing technologies and refining operations: Excerpts from the 1920s

The following is a mixture of technical articles, columns and headlines published in the 1920s by The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, the forerunner to Hydrocarbon Processing.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

The following is a mixture of technical articles, columns and headlines published in the 1920s by The Refiner and Natural Gasoline Manufacturer, the forerunner to Hydrocarbon Processing. This collection of excerpts provides a look into the major technological advancements and topics/trends in the hydrocarbon processing industry during that timeframe.

Comparison of principles involved in existing cracking processes

L. Reiss and E. R. Lederer, January 1923
This article detailed the nine different classifications under which cracking processes fall:

  1. Cracking in stills under pressure
  2. Cracking in the liquid phase in tubes under pressure
  3. Cracking in the liquid-vapor phase in tubes under pressure
  4. Cracking by any of the above, using steam
  5. Cracking by any of the above, using fixed gases and hydrogen
  6. Cracking by any of the above, using chemicals
  7. Cracking with the aid of internal heat
  8. Cracking in the vapor phases in tubes under pressure
  9. Cracking by electrical methods.

Some advantages of Dubbs Cracking Process

E. R. Lederer and W. F. Fulton, February 1923
The authors detailed the advantages of the Dubbs Cracking Process. Most notably, the Dubbs plant has the advantage of being able to handle up to 20 t of carbon or coke, which is deposited out of the heating zone in the expansion chamber where it can be easily removed at the end of the run without any material injury to the apparatus, thus permitting continuous operation over a longer period than any of the other methods in commercial use at the present time.

High recovery claim of Cross process

R. Cross, March 1923
During the early 1920s, many companies were conducting research to increase gasoline yield in refining. The author wrote, “Never in the history of the petroleum industry has there been so much activity in methods of increasing the yield of gasoline from crude oil. During the last 12 mos, most important advances in practical cracking have been made.” This article provided details on a new process, which essentially is a process of producing synthetic crude that is subsequently distilled.

Blending distillates and gas condensates

G. W. Reid, April 1923
This article provided new insights on the blending of petroleum distillates and natural gas condensates. The primary purposes of the author’s experiments were to detail physical changes that occurred when blending is in process and distillates and condensates are being mixed. Are the changes purely physical, purely chemical or a mixture of both?

Copper dish and “doctor” tests not so good

J. V. Meigs and E. J. Ford, May 1923
The authors provided insights on how the present way of determining corrosive elements in gasoline could be greatly improved, as well as offering their opinion on better methods.

Editorial Comment: Can there be too many cracking plants?

R. L. Dudley, June 1923
What will be the result if most refineries install cracking plants? Won’t this mean an over-production of gasoline with resultant lower prices? These questions were answered within a survey conducted by the publication in 1923. The majority response was, “yes, more cracking processes probably will lower the cost of gasoline if the present supply of crude continues, but economically and financially the cracking process will be vindicated more as the years go by.”

Cooling condensing water a problem

H. Pennington, April 1924
The value of cool condensing water is felt by every refiner running light oils, especially during summer months when atmospheric temperatures run high, and condensers are apt to “blow.” This challenge is not always given much attention but has a prominent place in operating efficiency.

Comparing gasoline plant operating costs

D. E. Foster, April 1924
The big problem of a gasoline plant is not simply running the plant and making gasoline, it is making money on the invested capital. This article detailed the economics of three methods of producing natural gasoline in 1924: compression, compression-blending and oil absorption.

Power costs reduced by electric drive

H. Pennington, August 1924
This discussion covered the application of steam turbine-driven generators for refinery operations in such a way that the steam is given superheat in the boilers, put through the turbine, where power is skimmed from it, and the steam is reduced in pressure, then passed out into the header, supplying stills with naked steam for distillation purposes.

Refining without shutdown for rerun

G. W. Reid, September 1924
From a study of approximately 40 refining plants, it is evident that progress is being made toward the accomplishment of taking care of rerun distillates without shutting down the plant during crude oil runs. Circulating distillates through towers prevents the accumulation of stocks and increases recovery.

Gasoline being extracted from shale

October 1924
J. Trumble has perfected a process for extracting oil and gasoline from shale in an experimental plant located at Alhambra, California (U.S.). The process is cyclic in character; that is, instead of producing the oil from shale in one operation and then distilling the crude oil into gasoline and other products in a second operation, the gasoline is produced from the oil shale through one continuous operation in which the crude oil occupies only an intermediate stage.

Boiler efficiency essential to refining

H. Pennington, November 1924

Temperature regulation for towers

W. C. Begeebing, November 1924
It has only been in the last few years that efficient fractionating towers and reflex condensers have come into general use. Tower construction has been greatly improved and with it has come the widespread adoption of automatic temperature control.

Many methods used in treating operation

C. K. Francis, March 1925
As the demand for higher quality product increases, more knowledge of various systems is being sought. This paper reviewed new methods to increase product purity from the refining process.

Review, comparison of fractionating towers

A. Peters, March 1925
This article detailed how the flexibility of a bubble tower can produce the desired product in only one run.

Essentials of plant lubrication

W. A. Fitz-Gerrell, May 1925
The correct type of oil is one that supplies fluidity in the delivery of the maximum of power in an even, steady flow through the stress of all operating conditions. Vital points to consider are maximum load and operating temperatures.

Accounting system for a refinery with a cracking system

R. J. Omo, July 1925
It was found that a cost system was necessary in operating a plant. The system that is described in this article provides the plant superintendent the cost of each step in the manufacturing process, and whether that person was overstepping a pre-determined economic limit, and if so, why.

Fuel oil—Its uses and methods of analysis

August 1925
The use of oil fuel is now becoming general in all trades and industries, the majority of which, were up until a few years ago, entirely dependent on coal. This article detailed the uses of fuel oil—especially in marine travel—and comparing various specifications.

Oil a source of raw material for chemical industries

J. E. Meyer, October 1925

Prevention of evaporation losses from gasoline storage

R. E. Wilson, H. V. Atwell, E. P. Brown and G. W. Chenicek, October 1925
The loss of gasoline from storage tanks with roofs tight enough to keep out the wind is due almost entirely to the daily breathing out of gasoline-saturated air as the temperature increases.

The future of gasoline

E. J. Ford, December 1925
This outlook provided insights on the next decade of gasoline demand (up to the mid-1930s). The author believed gasoline demand would continue to increase due to the rise in automobile demand—a more convenient way of travel vs. railway—and the increase in air travel. “Probably even more likely is the possibility of larger planes or small dirigibles for interurban transportation. No one will deny that the day of long-distance air travel is fast approaching.”

Decreasing refinery evaporation losses of gasoline

L. Schmidt, March 1926
In 1925, gasoline losses through evaporation totaled approximately 6.3%. However, better equipment and process changes have cut that loss in half. The improvement on various vapor-saving equipment and knowledge will further reduce gasoline losses from evaporation.

Contributing factors to corrosion, with special reference to sulfur

C. K. Francis, March 1926
Sulfur can wreak havoc on a refinery’s operation. No matter how the sulfur was formed in feedstock material, methods must be studied and devised to control and get rid of it.

Proper design and operation of heat exchangers

F. L. Kallum, M. E. Semino and A. F. Semino, April 1926
Production of heat is the costliest item in petroleum heating. Once produced, the conservation of heat offers opportunity for perhaps the greatest saving in the operation of a refinery or natural gasoline plant. This is the primary reason for the development of the heat exchanger in refining circles in the last 5 yr.

How to conserve steam in a refinery

H. S. Bell, May 1926
No matter how efficient a refiner’s boiler house may be, they must use the steam intelligently and without waste to reap full operational benefits. This article provides detailed analysis on the wastes that are often encountered in the steam distribution system and offers suggestions for conserving steam in the refinery.

Cracking heavy hydrocarbons in the presence of catalyst

I. Ginsberg, November 1926
Our article is concerned with a discussion of certain results that were obtained in the cracking of heavy hydrocarbons, mineral oils, mineral oil residues, ozocerite and the like into lower boiling products by heating them to the boiling point in the presence of activated charcoal and other catalysts.

Corrosion—An economical refinery problem

H. F. Perkins, January 1927
Only within the last few years have we been informed of the real mechanism of corrosion, and we are now ready to study each case of corrosion individually based on this information and depart from empirical methods.

Centrifugal vs. reciprocating pumps for refinery service

W. R. Layne, March 1927
This work provides a detailed comparison of two pump types: centrifugal and reciprocating. The best economy will be considered that results in the lowest total cost of pumping per barrel.

Refining capacity shifting to integrated companies

G. Reid, June 1927

The use of solvents for dewaxing paraffin-base crude oil

H. M. Smith, October 1927
A method utilizing solvents for the purpose of separating and removing waxy material is described in this article, together with preliminary experiments with solvents that led to its development. The solvents used are secondary butyl alcohol, acetone and mixtures of these, as well as isopropyl alcohol.

Using chemicals protects distillation equipment against corrosion

G. Egloff and J. C. Morrell, December 1927
The economic losses due to corrosion are high. This article considers the injection of chemicals into refinery equipment to neutralize the corrosive substances resulting from the atmospheric and super atmospheric distillation of petroleum oils.

Clays and their application in refining

G. W. Cupit, April 1928
The various benefits of using clays in petroleum refining are discussed in this article.

Automatic control equipment in the modern refinery

C. B. Faught and F. R. Staley, May 1928
A surprisingly large percentage of the total operations in a modern refinery are still classed as manual. However, increasing automatic control on equipment can optimize refinery throughput and efficiency.

Methods of testing gasoline for anti-knock properties

July 1928
This table, provided by H. G. Koehler of the Research Laboratories of the Universal Oil Products Co., provide data relative to the various methods of testing gasoline for anti-knock properties.

The plant manager’s part in accident prevention

C. W. Price, August 1928
There are three qualifications that are indispensable to a manager who would successfully promote safety at the plant. The plant manager must:

  1. Believe in safety as a good business proposition
  2. Believe in safety wholeheartedly and express those same principles to the plant workforce
  3. Not only initiate a safety campaign but must continuously associate with safety activities.

Natural gasoline outlook brighter: Expansion in cracking facilities indicates large demand and improved market for 1929

H. J. Struth, February 1929

Gasoline plant gathering system design

J. C. Bolinger, April 1929
In the design of pipelines for the transmission of gas, it is necessary to make use of some formula expressing the relations to each other of the quantity, initial and final pressures, diameter and length of line.

Special precautions for handling sulfur crudes at refineries

D. G. Cooper, May 1929
In handling sulfur crudes, hazards to personal safety and severe corrosion of equipment are encountered. Since these hazards exist in nearly all phases of the handling of crudes the utmost care in procedure must be followed.

Is present gasoline storage capacity adequate to best serve the industry?

H. C. Charles, June 1929

Few big companies dominate refinery capacity

G. Reid, July 1929
Nineteen companies control 75% of the total crude capacity and 80% of cracking facilities in the U.S.

The manufacture of commercial anhydrous aluminum chloride

A. M. McAfee, August 1929
For the first time, in this article, are the details of the aluminum chloride process made public.

Natural gasoline industry expansion slowing down

November 1929 HP

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