Page images

New Wizard of Power

By Charles Frederick Carter

Cheap power is the prime secret of commercial success. Steam held the field alone for years. Then came electricity and, more lately, water power on a vast scale. Now the great shadow on the power horizon is cast by producer gas. The largest gas engine at the World's Fair in 1893 was of thirty-five horse power. To-day a single plant in California contains four gas engines each of 5,400 horse power. There is one producer gas power plant in the United States with a capacity of 40,000 horse power. Producer gas can be made, as Mr. Carter says, "anywhere, at any time, in any quantity, and from anything combustible." This article is of vital importance to every business man and manufacturer.-EDITOR.

[merged small][merged small][graphic]


These engines consume all kinds of waste gases.

necessity of finding something more efficient than steam to perform the functions of the world's prime mover.

Recent developments would seem to indicate that a clue to this much needed improvement has been discovered. least it looks suspicious to find a gas engine plant of 40,000 horse power, another of 31,500 horse power, and still another of 21,500 horse power in the United States, one of 31,500 horse power in Johannesburg, South Africa, and goodness knows how many smaller ones in successful operation all over the world. And when one finds the same type of engine that is assembled in these great plants humbly doing the churning at a rural creamery, driving automobiles and motor boats and running everything else that can

When these later investigators took up the internal combustion engine, the most obvious thing they found was that to make it universally useful a fuel supply which would be cheap and available everywhere at all times was required. Illuminating gas, even if it were always accessible, is altogether too expensive.



be run, and saving money for its owner whenever it turns a wheel, suspicion almost deepens into conviction.

Inventive genius has been precious slow to recognize the merits of the gas engine. As long ago as 1794, Robert Street, an Englishman, built the first one. That was a year after William Murdock made the first practical use of gas by lighting and heating his house in Cornwall with it. Street's invention was allowed to languish in oblivion until 1861, before it was developed into an engine. that would really work. But then it consumed one hundred feet of illuminating gas per horse power per hour, which, of course, was economically impossible. Finally, in 1876, N. A. Otto, a young German merchant, hit upon the fundamental principle of accomplishing the admission of the gas mixture, its compression, ignition, expansion and the exhaustion of the spent gases in one cylinder. Upon this principle all successful gas engines have been based. The real development of the gas engine dates from the expiration of the Otto patents, when it occurred to others that it would be worth while to get to work on the problem.

So is gasoline. And none of the other gaseous fuels will fill the bill completely.

The difficulty was solved by the development of producer gas, which can be made in any quantity, at any time, anywhere, from anything combustible. For, bless you, the gas engine as now constituted is no more fastidious about its fuel than a 'longshoreman is about his liquor. Any kind of coal or coke or lignite or peat or even refuse will make gas quite acceptable to the internal combustion engine. And if none of these be available it will gratefully draw its frugal sustenance from the cast-off heat units in a blast furnace chimney. Yet this most advanced type of prime mover has an appetite as delicate as a school girl's. One pound of coal per horse power per hour or its equivalent is all that it requires, thank you, to keep it going at its maximum efficiency. Some gluttonous little steam plants have been known to consume from ten to twelve pounds of coal in doing the same work, while the best of them exact from two and a half to four pounds.

To appreciate fully the modest requirements of the internal combustion engine it is well to bear in mind that a

cubic foot of waste gases from blast furnaces, which operate the 40,000 horse power plant of the Lackawanna Steel Company at Buffalo and other large plants elsewhere, contains only eighty to one hundred British thermal units as compared with 600 to 650 in a cubic foot. of illuminating gas. Producer gas is hardly less poverty stricken, for it contains only from 125 to 180 British thermal units to the cubic foot. It is altoIt is alto gether too poor for lighting purposes, though it is used for cooking and heating to some extent in England. A pound of coal will yield from seventy-two to eighty feet of such gas.

In the last half dozen years the development of the gas engine has been remarkable, particularly in the United States. European manufacturers were spurred on to the adoption of the gas engine by the high price of fuel, while here the movement has been accelerated by the inherent ability of the American. to recognize a good thing when he sees it. The largest gas engine shown at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 was of thirty-five horse power. When the Lackawanna Steel Company wanted to install gas engines of 1,000 to 2,000 horse power in 1900 but one bid was submitted and that was from a foreign maker. Five years later when the Carnegie Company wanted to buy similar engines for the Edgar Thomson Steel Works twelve proposals from American builders were received. Today there are more than five hundred manufacturers of gas engines in the United States.

When the United States Steel Corporation sent a representative to Europe not so long ago in search of information regarding gas engines he was shown over a number of power plants. At last he said he was satisfied as far as he had gone; that what he had inspected would do very nicely for small plants, but what he wanted to see was something big the biggest gas engine in existence. Then the suggestion was delicately conveyed to him that if he would return home and hunt up a 4.500 horse power gas engine he would find in operation there his desire would be gratified. Since then the builders of this engine, the Snow Steam Pump Works, have filled an order for four gas engines of 5,400

horse power each for the California Gas and Electric Corporation. These are the largest gas engines yet built, though any one who has the money to foot the bill can find plenty of manufacturers ready to undertake larger ones.

The up-to-date gas engine power plant has gas producers instead of the boilers of the steam plant. A gas producer costs about as much as a boiler of equal power with its accessories; but it takes up less space, requires less work to keep it going, needs no skilled labor and the expense of operation stops at the same instant the work does. But the principal saving is in the fuel bill. It has been claimed by one enthusiast that by using bituminous coal and selling the by-products power could be generated in a gas producer plant fourteen per cent cheaper than water power.

It is not necessary to substantiate this roseate allegation to make out a good case for the gas producer power plant. An engine which can make one pound of coal do the work of one horse for one hour has a pretty strong claim upon the attention of power consumers who have been taught to believe they were doing fine when they obtained the same result at four times the cost. In a test conducted at Algona, Iowa, by the State University, a producer gas engine of 150 nominal horse power developed 156 brake horse power on a coal consumption of .999 pounds per horse power per hour. Even with such expensive fuel an anthracite pea coal at $6 a ton the cost of the power developed was 2.99 mills per brake horse power per hour. In another test near the mines in which the fuel used was anthracite culm the cost was 1.5 mills per horse power per hour.

At the coal testing plant of the geological survey at St. Louis in 1905 fourteen samples of coal from nine States were tested simultaneously in steam and gas producer power plants. The gas producer and engine were found to be two and a half times as efficient as the steam engine. In other words a given amount of power could be developed in a gas producer for forty per cent of the cost to generate the same amount if the coal were burned under a boiler.

Two motor boats were tested in a tenhour run from Hamburg to Kiel and re

[graphic][merged small]

turn one stormy day in June, 1905. One, the Gasschlepper, forty-four feet three inches long by ten feet six inches beam, was equipped with a four cylinder, seventy horse power gas engine, with suction gas producer. The other, the Elfreide, was forty-seven feet long and twelve feet beam and had a triple expansion steam engine of seventy-five horse power. The Gasschlepper exerted a pull of 2,140 pounds on the towing meter, the Elfreide 2,020 pounds. The former used only 530 pounds of anthra

cite on the run, the Elfreide 1,820 pounds of steam coal.

W. H. Laurie, a Canadian engineer, gives the cost of one brake horse power for one year from gasoline at $78; from illuminating gas, $46.80; from steam, $37.44; from producer gas from bituminous coal, $5.

As for care the gas engine only asks to be let alone. Many large engines run ninety-seven per cent of the time, the three per cent of stoppages including those on account of the electric gener

« PreviousContinue »