March 2022

100th Anniversary

HP Flashback: Operations expand and technologies advance during global conflict: Excerpts from the 1940s

This articles details several case studies on the use of x-ray technology for inspection purposes. This includes for the inspection of casings, forgings and welded structures, among others.

Nichols, Lee, Hydrocarbon Processing Staff

Application of x-ray inspection on oil refining equipment

H. R. Isenburger, January 1940
This articles details several case studies on the use of x-ray technology for inspection purposes. This includes for the inspection of casings, forgings and welded structures, among others.

Calculating gasoline octane rating from gravity and ASTM distillation

R. B. Cox, February 1940
Determining the octane number of gasoline is an expensive and time-consuming operation. Many attempts have been made to correlate this octane number with various physical properties of gasoline. The purpose of this paper is to present methods of calculating the octane rating of any gasoline by using only its API gravity and ASTM distillation.

Synchronized controls improve boiler operation

May 1940
Synchronizing the controls in the boiler room of a gasoline plant was accomplished through an arrangement of valves, piping and linkage, so that the draft through each boiler is automatically adjusted to the quantity of steam generated and the amount of fuel consumed.

Aviation gasoline plant near the Arctic Circle

R. E. Parkhurst, July 1940
This article examines the completion of the northern-most refinery in operation. The 840-bpd refinery has been developed by Imperial Oil Ltd. The facility is located at Norman Wells on the Mackenzie River in Northwest Territories, Canada, approximately 100 mi from the Arctic Circle.

The behavior of gasoline-coal fuel in spark-ignition engines

J. E. Hedrick, August 1940
Discussions have been made regarding the use of petroleum and pulverized coal mixtures in internal combustion engines. This subject has received more attention in Europe because of the scarcity of motor fuels. This work presents data on actual engine performance where a gasoline-coal suspension was used as fuel vs. the use of only gasoline.

Butyl rubber—A new hydrocarbon product

R. M. Thomas, I. E. Lightbown, W. J. Sparks, P. K. Frolich and E. V. Murphree, October 1940
In developing their new butyl rubber, Esso Laboratories has turned to simple olefins rather than diolefins or more complicated chemical derivatives as the primary raw material. Not only is this an economic advantage, but the availability of such simple olefins from refinery cracking operations makes the process attractive to produce synthetic rubber.

Use of additives in automotive lubricants

F. L. Miller, W. C. Winning and J. F. Kunc, February 1941
Only a few years ago, it was predicted that the motor lubricant of the future would consist of a highly refined mineral-oil base to which small quantities of special chemical agents would be added to secure the properties desired for superior engine lubrication. Today, progress in this direction is so rapid that it appears to be only a matter of time until most, if not all, of the predictions are realized.

The study of water problems in atmospheric cooling systems

D. W. Hearing and D. M. Considine, March 1941
Solutions to challenges in atmospheric water cooling systems in petroleum refining are receiving closer attention because expansion of processes and consequent increased demands of cooling have stimulated the trend toward water conservation through the installation of recirculating water systems.

Production of aviation motor fuel from natural gasoline

K. E. Cody and D. M. Luntz, April 1941
For many years, the principal use of natural gasoline has been to raise the volatility of motor fuel. Consequently, natural gasoline has been sold on a vapor pressure-volatility basis with little regard for other characteristics such as octane blending value and lead susceptibility. With the increased demand for high-octane aviation gasoline and with the depressed market for natural gasoline, many plants are considering manufacturing aviation base stocks as a means of making a larger profit on their production.

Useful products from natural gas

F. H. Dotterweich, May 1941
The growth of natural gasoline production has increased the amount of the byproduct natural gas, which has been marketed as a fuel and source of energy. More recently, natural gas has been used as a raw material for chemical production.

First hydroformer unit put on stream

J. V. Hightower, May 1941
The 7,500-bpd hydroforming unit went online at Pan American Refining Corp.’s refinery in Texas City, Texas (U.S.). The unit is the first commercial installation of this type. It uses a catalytic process to convert low-octane naphtha into 77–80 octane aromatic gasoline containing a small percentage of unsaturates.

Petroleum becomes source of military explosives

B. O. Lisle, August 1941
Trinitrotoluol (TNT) is a preferred explosive because of its high power, great stability and dependability, and safety during handling. The increasing demand for TNT has resulted in the increased demand for toluene. This article looks at what toluene is, and the different processes used to manufacture it.

Refining processes

September 1941
This section was the forerunner to the publication’s Refining Handbook. This first iteration details more than two dozen refining processes used in the early 1940s, including distillation, alkylation, catalytic cracking, catalytic polymerization and isomerization, among others.

Turbines for power generation from industrial process gases

Goldsbury and J. R. Henderson, December 1941
This article presents the files of application for turbines operated by industrial process gases and natural gases. It provides examples of mechanical details of actual turbines which have been built for such applications, a simple method for calculating the energy available in a pure or a compound gas for specific operating conditions, and the properties of various gases for use in such calculations.

Defense efforts push oil to record levels during 1941

W. R. Boyd, January 1942

Natural gas as a raw material in the production of synthetic ammonia

F. H. Dotterweich, March 1942

Butadiene calls for few departures in equipment or processing

J. V. Hightower, April 1942
Although the petroleum refining industry is turning to the production of raw materials, chiefly butadiene for the manufacture of synthetic rubber, this does not mean that plants will require radically different equipment and fundamentally different processes from those used in the production of ordinary petroleum products.

Importance of butane in this war

R. L. Huntington, May 1942
Natural gasoline manufacturers realize the important part that butanes are playing in the production of materials highly essential for winning the war. Through thermal and catalytic conversion processes, isobutane is being made into isooctane, an invaluable blending agent for aviation motor fuel. Normal butane is being converted into butadiene through dehydrogenation. Approximately three parts of butadiene and one part of styrene make up the principal constituents going into the manufacturing of artificial rubber.

Increasing recovery of liquefied petroleum gases in natural gasoline plants

J. W. Wilson, June 1942
Total sales of LPG have significantly increased over the past 2 yr. The increasing uses for these petroleum gases are leading to accelerating demand.

Practical methods for storing volatile liquids

D. E. Larson, July 1942
In designing a chemical plant or petroleum refinery, provisions must be made for the storage of volatile liquids. The designer will naturally design storage capable of the following results:

  1. Retaining each product for the required period without deterioration or loss of quality
  2. Retaining the product without loss of volume
  3. Storing the product at the lowest possible cost per gallon commensurate with safety
  4. Storing the product with the least possible danger from fire.

The War Products issue

October 1942
This issue was dedicated to petroleum products produced to help the Allies during World War 2. The issue focuses on the different processes that produce products such as synthetic rubber, aviation gasoline, aviation lubricants, toluol, alcohol, plastics, etc. The introduction of the issue is copied below:

“Upon their supply and performance rests the fate of civilization. Equally important will be their influence upon human affairs in the peace to come. Petroleum refining rises to meet this challenge and marches on to victory.

The following pages illustrate the present and the future. Photographs show the rubber consuming instruments of war for which the industry’s hectic planning and building are being made and the products/fuels produced to excel in battle. The story tells of the peacetime future of these wartime products.”

Record crude production and high refinery runs required to meet huge military needs

L. J. Logan, August 1943

Fluid catalyst cracking for premium fuels

E. V. Murphree, H. G. M. Fischer, E. J. Gohr, W. J. Sweeney and C. L. Brown, November 1943
Many large fluid catalyst cracking units are in operation producing highly aromatic aviation basestocks, raw materials for alkylate, synthetic rubber and toluene. These operations have established the fluid catalyst process as an economical basic cracking installation for producing aviation and motor fuels.

Recent developments in Houdry fixed-bed catalytic processes

T. B. Prickett and R. H. Newton, November 1943
This paper provides developments by which the original fixed-bed Houdry process was adapted to produce basestock for aviation gasoline. Among the developments were the manufacturing of synthetic catalyst, production of isobutane and butylene for alkylation and catalytic treating of primary basestock.

How will the 100-octane aviation gasoline program affect post-war motor gasoline?

B. K. Brown and D. P. Barnard, December 1943
With the return of competition in cost, processes and raw materials, the authors of this article are of the opinion that: “As much as 100,000 barrels of 100-octane capacity will be shut down or diverted to other uses because of excessive operating costs and crude utilizations.”

Bombs fall on Ploesti

March 1944
“For the Ploesti mission, every plant in each element was given a pinpoint and had to find it. There are no secondary targets.” This quote—said Lieutenant B. O. Lisle during the annual meeting of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers—summed up the bombing of refining centers in Ploesti, Poland by Allied bombers. Refined fuels were crucial in aiding the war effort on both sides. Without oil/fuels, military operations could not be conducted.

Study of the effect of catalytic cracking on the post-war supply of motor gasolines, distillates and residual fuels

March 1944
Previous advances in refining technology have been slowly adopted. Necessity for military-grade gasolines brought catalytic cracking into refining without regard to other considerations. With the end of fighting, catalytic cracking capacity, the quality of its products, its ownership and its location will suddenly become factors in what the industry has to sell.

Use of the mass spectrometer in the routine analysis of refinery gas samples

J. G. Schaafsma, April 1944
This article provides a brief discussion on the theory and operation of the mass spectrometer and its performance when used to control and acid alkylation unit.

How to train plant personnel in fire prevention and fire fighting

A. W. Trusty, May 1944
Refining personnel is changing rapidly and many new personnel have never seen an oil fire. It is imperative that operators be familiar with the cause and nature of fires, along with the most efficient and quickest methods to combat them.

Influence of ozone on diesel engine performance

W. J. Armstrong and C. E. Thorp, June 1944
For several years, ozone has been suggested as an agent that might be of value in obtaining improvement in the thermal efficiency of internal-combustion engines. This paper describes various experiments to determine the influence of ozone on compression-ignition engine performance.

Chemicals from petroleum

H. D. Wilde, July 1944
The outstanding raw material used today for synthetic chemical production, especially from a volume standpoint, is butylene.

Time-saving computing instruments for spectroscopic analysis

T. D. Morgan and F. W. Crawford, September 1944
Chemical plants depend on rapid analytical methods as a guide to keep the plant onstream. Successful applications of spectroscopic methods to these analytical problems have shortened the time interval from sampling to completion of an analysis, saving a significant amount of workers’ time.

Characteristics of the differential-type flowmeter and conditions affecting its operation

L. K. Spink, November 1944
This work not only tells what to do and what to avoid in considering flowmeter applications, but also cites the penalties in terms of percent error if certain rules are not observed.

Plastics from petroleum

B. H. Weil, January 1945
This article provides a look at the many types of plastics that are produced from petroleum oil. The article includes sections on terminology, history, raw materials and processing routes to produce plastics. From the article’s introduction:

“Plastics today, are materials with which to conjure. Industrial designers have depicted sleek plastic-bodied cars with transparent plastic tops and windshields. Advertisements have shown the home of the future as a dwelling built of plastic-bonded plywood, replete with plastic equipment from bathtub to lighting. Newspaper accounts have dwelled upon the coming age of plastics in which almost every article of commerce will have plastics used in them. All this publicity has served to focus the spotlight of attention upon materials and products which, in appearance and use, have long been of interest and utility to the public and industry alike.”

Fuels for high-speed diesel engines

V. A. Kalichevsky, April 1945
The original development of trucks and busses as an important transportation factor was based on the use of gasoline engines to supply motive power. This source of power has continued predominantly because availability of gasoline has kept pace with demand. However, a considerable amount of work has been carried out, leading towards the development of diesel engines on the basic presumption that they are less discriminating with respect to fuels.

Super compressibility of natural gas upon compressor performance

R. S. Ridgway, May 1945
There seems to be some tendency to ignore the effect of super compressibility upon compressor performance and to assume that discrepancies from this source can be neglected. It is the aim of this paper to point out the dangers of such a practice, to indicate the practical value of the proper treatment and to present the methods of calculation which recognize this effect.

The fluid catalytic cracking process—How it operates

May 1945
This article provides a step-by-step look at the fluid catalytic cracking process, including a colored diagram provided by the M. W. Kellogg Co.

Functions and fundamentals of temperature in refinery process control

D. M. Boyd, September 1945
Instrumentation is the control of a product by its physical properties. At present, only two properties—temperature and pressure—are being extensively used in refining. It is evident that many additional properties can and should be used, such as refractive index, absorption spectra and dielectric property.

It is the purpose of this article to trace the development of temperature process control and to provide several examples of problems encountered in the design and operation of a 100-octane gasoline plant, which requires more than 300 instruments.

Synthetic lubricants from ethylene condensations

H. Schildwachter, March 1946
The condensation of ethylene with coal-tar fractions can produce valuable lubricants. The viscosity of such synthetic oils can be further increased by treatment with silent electric discharges. These oils show good stability under heat, are free of asphalt and potential sludge bodies, and do not form tars during oxidation at 120°C, among several other benefits.

Disposal of refinery wastes

L. C. Burroughs, July 1946
Since its inception, the petroleum industry has been confronted with the problem of the proper disposal of the wastes produced from oil-refining processes. Two conditions dictate close study on the subject of waste: the pressing necessity of more economical operation and the fact that political bodies continue to demand more from industry in the protection of both surface and underground water supplies.

Design of instrument-air-supply system for the process industry

W. C. Ludi, October 1946
The purpose of this article is to outline present practice in the design of instrument-air-supply systems for process units. These systems are important in plants using automatic control instruments since continuous satisfactory performance is essential to the production of specification products and the maintenance of operator morale. Also included is a discussion of instrumentation air drying methods and systems, and notes on the principal design features desired in the mechanical equipment of instrument-air systems.

Fundamental requirements for safe arrangement of drains and vents

J. H. Johnson, June 1947
The primary functions of drain and vent systems on oil processing units are to provide a means of quickly and safely disposing of oil and gas in an emergency, and to provide a means for safely draining and venting various parts of a unit during operation. The article details the fundamentals of arranging drains and vents in a processing unit.

Maintenance of tubular heat exchangers

J. G. Housman, July 1947
The proper techniques regarding maintenance on tubular heat exchangers at Standard Oil Co.’s Whiting refinery are discussed.

Cracking sulfur stocks with natural catalyst

R. C. Davidson, September 1947
This article presents the characteristics of catalyst which have been poisoned by sulfur and the procedure prohibiting the decline in activity caused by cracking gasoils containing relatively large amounts of sulfur compounds.

Refinery building program is stupendous

L. J. Logan, October 1947
Facing a substantial increase in the demand for petroleum products over the new few years, the refining branch of the petroleum industry is confronted with the necessity for a refinery building program beyond any figure heretofore quoted.

Where does the sulfur go?

M. J. Fowle and R. D. Bent, November 1947
This paper presents the distribution of sulfur in products when processing sour crude by distillation, thermal viscosity, breaking, gasoil cracking and reforming; catalytic cracking; catalytic desulfurization; and chemical treating.

Flange design calculations

H. E. Lonngren, November 1947
The author presents new formulas for determining the flange thickness quickly, with an assurance of obtaining a predetermined and uniform stress distribution in the flange. The derivation of the new formulas is based on the present formulas in the ASME and ASME-API codes.

The aromatic adsorption index as a rapid method for approximating catalyst activity

W. W. Scheumann and A. R. Rescorla, December 1947
Control of catalytic cracking operations requires frequent measurement of catalyst activity. The aromatic adsorption index is based on the ability of a cracking catalyst selectively to adsorb aromatic hydrocarbon from a hydrocarbon mixture.

Straight-line chart determination of absorber extraction efficiency

E. W. Ragatz, February 1948
The recently proposed straight-line chart method of absorber analysis has been broadened and refined with the resultant development of a highly significant overall performance factor. This factor has been given the designation of Extraction Efficiency and expresses the ratio (in terms of percent) of the theoretical minimum to actual lean oil rate required to affect a 95% butane recovery at any absorber operation. Application of this factor to a wide range of commercial units indicates the possibility of markedly improving the effectiveness of present day high-pressure absorbers.

New weapon of science—Radioactive isotopes

May 1948
A research project to unlock the still unknown secrets that make the conversion of coal and natural gas into gasoline possible is underway by Gulf Oil Corp. Radioactive isotopes are being applied to the study since the basic nature of the chemical reaction of the process remains a mystery. Sufficient technical knowledge exists to proceed with commercial production; however, the ultimate possibilities of the reaction cannot be judged until what happens in the reaction is better understood.

By sampling the presence of radioactive atoms in various stages of the process by a Geiger counter, the researchers hope to trace the course of carbon atoms and blueprint the entire reaction.

Industrial engineering in refinery maintenance planning

W. H. Reynolds, August 1948
The intention of this article is to emphasize the importance of providing basic tools for the analysis and investigation of all plant procedures. A “job order” system with resultant cost segregation and accumulation is offered as a basis for improving plant routines.

Designing for efficiency—Gas compressor systems

T. G. Hicks, December 1948
Gas compression plays a necessary part in operations throughout the refining, natural gasoline and petrochemical processing plants. Whether the gas handled is from a field vacuum gathering system, is being moved through a long-distance pipeline or is evolved from a conversion reaction in a processing facility, the problems of compressor installation and station design are much the same. Certain utilities must be provided, piping must be worked out to accommodate the process operating conditions, adequate foundations must be designed and maintenance requirements must be considered, among other factors.

Nuclear fission as a source of competitive energy

T. R. Hogness, April 1949
Currently, there is no such thing as atomic power, in the sense of the strict definition of power. However, surely, we shall have this power and in the not too distant future. The principles are known, tentative designs for power reactors have been made, and many necessary preliminary experiments are under way. With our faith in the ability to solve a very difficult problem, feasibility is fast growing into certainty.

Analytical instruments in automatic control systems

N. Gildersleeve, June 1949
There is a significant trend in process plant instrumentation toward the more general use of analysis-type instruments for the direct control of operating variables. The development of satisfactory instrumentation for the automatic control of the physical variables—temperature, pressure, flow, liquid level, etc.—resulted in great improvement in process plant operation, so now instruments capable of analyzing process stream compositions will bring about smoother operation of process equipment and a higher percentage of on-specification production.

Drainage time for bubble cap columns

J. L. Huitt, W. C. Ziegenhain, F. C. Fowler and R. L. Huntington, November 1949
The time required for a fractionating column to drain after it has been taken offline is a factor that enters the routine operation of many plants employing distillation. However, literature reports little, if any, experimental data on this operation and no method of calculating this drainage time. This article addresses this challenge.

Power plants for modern refineries

T. G. Hicks, December 1949
Power plants serving today’s refining, natural gasoline and petrochemical plants have come a long way since the well-known oil field boiler days. No longer is steam generation the only function of the refinery power plant. Electricity in large quantities becomes more necessary every time a new production operation is introduced. With the decrease in availability of byproduct fuels, refinery power plant efficiency takes on a new importance. To achieve low cost production, today’s refinery designer must strive for the optimum balance obtainable between process and power generating facilities. Obtaining such a balance is not readily done because it involves a multitude of factors. HP

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