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New Wizard of Power
By Charles Frederick Carter
Cheap power is the prime secret of commercial success. Steam held the held alone for years. Then cam 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.
HEN a man has to shovel coal burned under its boilers. If it is a a dollar bill into the fur- small plant, the results are likely to be nace every time he wants the former figure or less; if it is a very a dime's worth of power, large plant, conducted with unusual he may be pardoned for skill, the latter may be approximated.
harboring a germ or two Corliss and quadruple expansion engines, of discontent with the present stage of feed water heaters and kindred accesindustrial evolution. Yet a modern steam sories, and finally the steam turbine have power plant will only deliver at the resulted from endeavors to reduce this crank shaft from ten to twelve per cent excessive waste of heat. Altogether they of the potential energy contained in the have only served to accentuate the necessity of finding something more effi- When these later investigators took cient than steam to perform the func- up the internal combustion engine, the tions of the world's prime mover. most obvious thing they found was that
Recent developments would seem to to make it universally useful a fuel supindicate that a clue to this much needed ply which would be cheap and available improvement has been discovered. At everywhere at all times was required.
. least it looks suspicious to find a gas en- Illuminating gas, even if it were always gine plant of 40,000 horse power, an- accessible, is altogether too expensive. other 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
A MODEST LITTLE MACHINE OF 125 HORSEPOWER. motor boats and running everything else that can be run, and saving money for its owner So is gasoline. And none of the other whenever it turns a wheel, suspicion al- gaseous fuels will fill the bill completely. most deepens into conviction.
The difficulty was solved by the develInventive genius has been precious opment of producer gas, which can be slow to recognize the merits of the gas made in any quantity, at any time, anyengine. As long ago as 1794, Robert where, from anything combustible. For, Street, an Englishman, built the first one. bless you, the gas engine as now conThat was a year after William Murdock stituted is no more fastidious about its made the first practical use of gas by fuel than a 'longshoreman is about his lighting, and heating his house in Corn- liquor. Any kind of coal or coke or lignite wall with it. Street's invention was 'al- or peat or even refuse will make gas lowed to languish in oblivion until 1861, quite acceptable to the internal combusbefore it was developed into an engine. tion engine. And if none of these be that would really work. But then it con- available it will gratefully draw its frugal sumed one hundred feet of illuminating sustenance from the cast-off heat units gas per horse power per hour, which, of in a blast furnace chimney. Yet this course, was economically impossible. most advanced type of prime mover has Finally, in 1876, N. A. Otto, a young an appetite as delicate as a school girl's. German merchant, hit upon the funda- One pound of coal per horse power per mental principle of accomplishing the hour or its equivalent is all that it readmission of the gas mixture, its com- quires, thank you, to keep it going at pression, ignition, expansion and the ex- its maximum efficiency. Some gluthaustion of the spent gases in one cylin- tonous little steam plants have been der. Upon this principle all successful known to consume from ten to twelve gas engines have been based. The real pounds of coal in doing the same work, development of the gas engine dates while the best of them exact from two from the expiration of the Otto patents, and a half to four pounds. when it occurred to others that it would To appreciate fully the modest rebe worth while to get to work on the quirements of the internal combustion problem.
engine it is well to bear in mind that a cubic foot of waste gases from blast fur- horse power each for the California Gas naces, which operate the 40,000 horse and Electric Corporation. These are the power plant of the Lackawanna Steel largest gas engines yet built, though any Company at Buffalo and other large one who has the money to foot the bill plants elsewhere, contains only eighty to can find plenty of manufacturers ready one hundred British thermal units as to undertake larger ones. compared with 600 to 650 in a cubic foot The up-to-date gas engine power of illuminating gas. Producer gas is
Producer gas is plant has gas producers instead of the hardly less poverty stricken, for it con- boilers of the steam plant. A gas protains only from 125 to 180 British ther- ducer costs about as much as a boiler of mal units to the cubic foot. It is alto- equal power with its accessories; but it gether too poor for lighting purposes, takes up less space, requires less work though it is used for cooking and heat- to keep it going, needs no skilled labor ing to some extent in England. A pound and the expense of operation stops at the of coal will yield from seventy-two to same instant the work does. But the eighty feet of such gas.
principal saving is in the fuel bill. It In the last half dozen years the devel- has been claimed by one enthusiast that opment of the gas engine has been re- by using bituminous coal and selling the markable, particularly in the United by-products power could be generated States. European manufacturers were in a gas producer plant fourteen per cent spurred on to the adoption of the gas cheaper than water power. engine by the high price of fuel, while
It is not necessary to substantiate this here the movement has been accelerated roseate allegation to make out a good by the inherent ability of the American case for the gas producer power plant. to recognize a good thing when he sees An engine which can make one pound of it. The largest gas engine shown at the coal do the work of one horse for one World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 hour has a pretty strong claim upon the was of thirty-five horse power. When attention of power consumers who have the Lackawanna Steel Company wanted been taught to believe they were doing to install gas engines of 1,000 to 2,000 fine when they obtained the same result horse power in 1900 but one bid was sub- at four times the cost. In a test conmitted and that was from a foreign ducted at Algona, Iowa, by the State maker. Five years later when the Car- University, a producer gas engine of 150 negie Company wanted to buy similar nominal horse power developed 156 engines for the Edgar Thomson Steel brake horse power on a coal consumpWorks twelve proposals from American tion of .999 pounds per horse power per builders were received. Today there are hour. Even with such expensive fuel an more than five hundred manufacturers of
anthracite pea coal at $6 a ton the cost gas engines in the United States.
of the power developed was 2.99 mills When the United States Steel Cor- per brake horse power per hour. In anporation sent a representative to Europe other test near the mines in which the not so long ago in search of information fuel used was anthracite culm the cost regarding gas engines he was shown over was 1.5 mills per horse power per hour. a number of power plants. At last lie At the coal testing plant of the geosaid he was satisfied as far as he had logical survey at St. Louis in 1905 fourgone; that what he had inspected would teen samples of coal from nine States do very nicely for small plants, but what were tested simultaneously in steam and he wanted to see was something big- gas producer power plants. The gas prothe biggest gas engine in existence. ducer and engine were found to be two Then the suggestion was delicately con- and a half times as efficient as the steam veyed to him that if he would return engine. In other words a given amount home and hunt up a 4.500 horse power of power could be developed in a gas progas engine he would find in operation ducer for forty per cent of the cost to there his desire would be gratified. Since generate the same amount if the coal then the builders of this engine, the were burned under a boiler. Snow Steam Pump Works, have filled Two motor boats were tested in a tenan order for four gas engines of 5.400 hour run from Hamburg to Kiel and return one stormy day in June, 1905. One, cite on the run, the Elfreide 1,820 pounds the Gasschlepper, forty-four feet three of steam coal. inches long by ten feet six inches beam, W. H. Laurie, a Canadian engineer, was equipped with a four cylinder, sev- gives the cost of one brake horse power enty horse power gas engine, with suc- for one year from gasoline at $78; from tion gas producer. The other, the El- illuminating gas, $46.80; from steam, freide, was forty-seven feet long and $37.44; from producer gas from bitumitwelve feet beam and had a triple ex- nous coal, $5. pansion steam engine of seventy-five As for care the gas engine only asks horse power. The Gasschlepper exerted to be let alone. Many large engines run a pull of 2,140 pounds on the towing ninety-seven per cent of the time, the meter, the Elfreide 2,020 pounds. The three per cent of stoppages including former used only 530 pounds of anthra- those on account of the electric gener