INregard to conservation of our natural mineral resources, the petroleum industry affords a better example of what can be accomplished in useful application and preventing of waste, rather than an illustration of deplorable waste which has been the theme of most that has been written on this subject for other industries. Nevertheless, the petroleum industry is one of the most vital cases for exercising every possible care in the utilization of a limited amount of material. The gloomy outlook for the United States, without great care in utilizing the stores of petroleum and other fuels, is well illustrated by the present condition of Italy. For, in spite of a -climate unexcelled for the growth of plants, and with men and women strong and skillful in the arts of agriculture, the peasants are proverbially poor. Only a few days ago in looking at an Italian photograph of an unusually strong woman, carrying on her head a large bundle of firewood, I was puzzled to explain how poverty was consistent with this magnificent physical development, and yet the picture carried in it the obvious reason. The world has moved past the stage when human power is sufficient in daily labor. Aid must be had from power from a large supply of cheap fuel, in addition to the energy to be contributed by human labor, and only the countries prosper where such fuel is abundant. Italy's fuel supply has burned out, unless they harness the exhalation from Mt. Vesuvius. Even the wood which the woman in the picture was carrying is scarce and costly, and in no way sufficient for the development of enough energy for efficient manufacture. Contrast this condition with the United States. We have a supply of at least 10 billion barrels of petroleum, in what we already know of the resources of the United States. From these vast resources we produced last year over 200,000,000 barrels of oil. In addition we produced natural gas to a value of at least 65,000,000. In other words, leaving out of consideration copper and iron, the oil and gas of the United States was worth more than the gold, silver, lead, and every other metal product produced in the same length of time. It is important to emphasize the fact that we do not need this great production. But there is no possible method of preventing the producers of oil from tawing it from the earth as rapidly as possible where they either own the oil landa or own leases on the oil lands, and there is no way of curbing the haste with which the oil is pumped out by one producer lest his neighbor will secure the greater part by prompter action. The ability of the owner of any large tract of oil land, such as the people as owners of the oil on the public domain, or of any large oil company with a large tract of developed oil land, to withhold development on these large tracts is admitted, but aside from this, the known oil fields will be developed as rapidly as human enterprise can put the product above ground. Intelligent utilization of oil, therefore, has had to face extreme conditions of sudden floods of oil and in general more oil than was needed. These exceptionally trying conditions have been met with significant success. It is very much easier to record the failures to conserve, rather than the nearly uniform success. When the Lucas gusher broke loose near Beaumont, Texas, the oil was lost for lack of tankage for a few days and fire added to the waste. In the opening days of the Glenn pool, in Oklahoma, oil ran to waste down the creek, and in California the frst flows of the Silver Tip, the Lakeview and other gushers have been lost, but the total loss from all these sources is trifling. This is an achievement which calls for great congratulation rather than the criticism of methods which has been found necessary in considering the conservation of coal and the shameful devastation of our forests. Perhaps it will be useful to discuss how this careful saving of petroleum has been brought about, as a means of inspiring similar enterprise in other industries. Oil conservation goes back beyond all the oil companies great and small and begins with Samuel Kier, a merchant of Pittsburg, who was also, from necessity, an inventor, or better still, an adapter, of a lamp for burning oil. He added a chimney which made the oil burn with a bright light. This supplied a market which did not before exist and which has spread from Pittsburg to remotest China. A. C. Ferris came next with his genius for oil traffic. He began the process of exporting oil from Pittsburg to the ends of the earth. From that day to this, business sagacity has dominated oil. Pipe Lines.-It was the spur of business competition that developed the pipe line, at first facing hostility and actual violence from the army of teamster3, in order to get the oil from the well mouth to a railroad or river landing; and finally, invoking engineering skill, the oil men emancipated themselves from railroads and pumped oil over the Alleghenies to tide water. Pipe-line efficiency has been perfected in both directions-toward the consumer and toward the producer. The refineries have tended to accumulate near the coast because it was evidently cheaper to transport the oil in the crude condition as far toward the consumer as possible, and only to resort to costlier transportation methods when it became necessary to convert the oil into the products to be consumed, each of which must be distributed by its own system. The pipe lines have increased in number, and economy has been promoted by the best types of pumping equipment. In fact 'pumping engines have been greatly developed for all purposes by the demand for them afforded in transporting oil. Meantime the branch, or “gathering,” lines have crept outward as the, oil pools increased until there are now many miles of. pipe lines in the United States. Of greatest help, however, has been the system by which the pipe line has always been extended to the well mouth promptly when new fields have been discovered. The only burden for the oil producer has been the development of his oil pool. It has become axiomatic, that the oil is as good as sold as soon as it is produced, Uses of Orude Oil.—It is evident that the requirements of the moment must be considered in the uses August ]2, 1911 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ]48 for oil, and not the ideal utilization based upon the highest grade products that the oil can be made to yield. Ii fact the sudden floods of crude oil have made it necessary to get rid of the oil for any purpose whatever, so long as the oil is consumed. Of the entire supply, the greater part has been distilled and refined so as to yield the greatest amount of lamp oil of satisfactory quality and the minimum of by-products such as gasoline, paraffine wax, lubricating oil, and coke products. Usually there has been a steady market for lamp oils at home and abroad. Within the past few years this policy has of course greatly changed, due to the increased demand for gasolino, and due also to the over supply of kerosene. The consumption of kerosene has not declined. It has increased, but not so rapidly as the production of crude oil. Fuel OiTs.-This necessity of forcing a market for crude oil has developed uses which might long have lain dormant. Chief among these is fuel oil, second, and always increasing, is road oil. Luckily the recent great fnds in Texas and California have been very suitable for use as fuel for power purposes. Under extreme conditions, all kinds of crudes have been used for fuel; but they are better suited for the purpose when the gasoline and burning oil have been removed. Fortunately it pays to take out these portions, and therefore the so-called “skimming” plants have been successful. As a rule wherever these fuel oils have been used an advantage has been demonstrated. This includes all kinds of power plants, locomotives, an,I fnally the marine engine. The advantage on locomotives is evident; for the size of a locomotive is limited by the amount of coal that a fireman can feed in a given time. Thus in the Northern Rocky Mountains the limit of size has been reached by this human limitation, at least until an oil supply can replace the coal. Then, the size and efficiency may increase again. Internal Combustion Engines. — For marine power, oil's efficiency includes, besides increased capacity, elimination of the smoke nuisance on passenger craft, with its attendant cost of paint, and of the smoke danger for war vessels. Oil in the Navy.—The effect of this is that more than 25,000,000 barrels of oil iper year must be set aside for naval purposes in the United States, and the merchant marine will require as much morc. Further it must be remembered that the great majority of the known petroleum resources of the world are here in the United States. One effect of this was seen in the days of the flood of oil at Beaumont, Texas, with oil selling as low as 10 cents per barrel, where it was recklessly applied to any purpose. Every effort was made by those interested in the welfare of oil to induce the changing of the use of petroleum into other more conservative uses, such as distilling out as much gasoline and kerosene as the oil will yield, and converting as much as possible of the residuum into various lubricating oils and thus avoiding the use of 01 as a low grade fuel in compeEtion with coal. Now, however, for the reasons given, the use of oil in internal combustion engines has become one of its most benefeial uses. In the future, therefore, we can expeet. the.very best utilization of our valuable oil supplies to proceed along the lines of burning it for the production of power. This method of burning oil constitutes an example of modern conservation of resources. Oil for Good Roads.—Another use that can really be considered as consistent with the conservation of our mineral supplies is the use of petroleum residues for making good roads. Road oil, as manufactured from Texas and mid-continent oil residues, probably promotes as great economy in national Jife as any other use to which it can be put. Lubricating O i ls.—'Meantime we must not lose sight of the fact that modern progress would cease, the) movement of all machinery would stop, were it not for mineral lubricating oils. The former supplies of animal and vegetable oils suitable for lubrication are trivial compared with the demands of modern machinery. Mineral lubricating oils are as essential to machinery as the telephone is to the conduct of business affaIrs. Protection of Future Supply.-As already pointed out, we are producing more petroleum than we need, and we are obliged to export the surplus. This surplus goes to the ends of the earth, and from the broau standpoint of the world's economy it is necessary for progress. From the more limited standpoint of the economy of the United States, it would be better to keep it at home until needed. The necessity for thus husbanding our petroleum resources is so evident that it will be accomplished, partly by the purchase of large tracts of petroleum lands by large corporations who will hold these supplies for the future, and partly by the withdrawal by the National Government of such oil lands as remain on the national domain in the interest of future use. A most favorable sign of the tim?s is the agreement between companies in California that each shall keep back a certain number of hundred feet from the dividing line in order that neither party will draw the oil from the other's territory-an arrangement which makes it no longer an inducement to withdraw the oil from one tract to prevent its being exhausted by the wells of a rival tract. The extension of this policy is consistent with common sense and business interests. Two recent very successful feats in oil engineering have greatly improved the prospects of a long continued natural gas supply in the United States. A great source of loss in this country has been the waste of at least 100,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day in the Caddo field in northwestern J ouisiana. Repeated claims have been made that these. oil and gas wells could not'possibly be controlled. Within the last two months the engineer of the Caddo Gas and Oil Company, of Shreveport, Louisiana, has completely controUed one of these great volcanoes of gas, water and oil, and the feat was so easily accomplished as to make it altogether probable that the other wells will be quickly controlled in the same way. At the time this article is being written, another great problem is being solved in this same Caddo field. An oil well gnshing at least 20,000 barrels per day, together with a large quantity of natural gas, has been on fire for several weeks, defying all attempts at extinguishing the fir\! 9J' 99!trolling the fow. As a last. resort a tunnel has just been finished. The intention IS to cut the pipe and divert the stream of oil through the tunnel and thus extinguish the fire and control the well. 'ith the steps thus in progress for the conservation of oil resources, it is probable that the oil supply of the United States is in a fair way to be protected for many generations to come, and it is certain that the methods of using this material are more satisfactory than for most other minerals. Injury to Lumber by Fungi B LUE and black stains on lumber stored in yards decrease the value of the lumber, without, however, injuring the wood, since it has been found that the fungi which cause the stains feed upon the mat'-rials within the cells of the sap-wood, and do not destroy the fibers. These fungi are largely of the black-knot family, and the most common are species of Graphium and C'eratostomclla. It has been the custom of the lumber companies to dip the wood in solutions of sodium carbonate or bicarbonate immediately after the sawing; but the results have been very uneven. To find out why the alkaline solutions somctimes prevented the development of the fungi, and at other times had no effect whatever, Miss Caroline Rumbold started a series of experimental cultunos at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. Nutrient media were pre par e d containing from one-half to two per cent sodium carbonate, and others with similal' amounts of citric add. The spores of Ceratosto-mclla germinated and the fungus thrived on the acid media, and on those containing 0.5 per cent of Na,CO", but not on those with 1 per cent or more of the alkali. Freshly cut sap boards of yellow pine and red gum were then dipped in hot and in cold solutions of sodium carbonate and of sodium bicarbonate, of various strengths, from 1 per cent to 10 per cent. These boards were i n 0 cuI ated with the spores of the fungus and kept in chambers with a saturated atmosphere. Controls were simply dipped in water, and some of the red gum boards also in sulphuric acid (5 per cent and 10 per cent). The fungus developed on all the controls, including the sulphuric acid boards, and on most of the boards dipped in the alkaline solutions. The hot dip was found to be more effective. in inhibiting the growth than the cold solution, and the carbonate oi 7 to 8 per cent as effective as bicarbonate solution of 8 to 10 per cent. Increase of Crop Yield in Germany O N the twenty-fifth anniversary of the German Agricultural Society there was published a table showing the progress in the yield of various farm crops during the quarter century. Some of the items are given below, the figures representing pounds per acre:* 1885 1910 Rye ................. 1,050 1,486 Wheat ............... 1,344 1,771 Barley ............... 1,335 1,735 Potatoes ............. 8,989 12,370 Oats ................. 1,255 1,710 Hay ................. 2,910 3,863 It is pointed out that this progress is not due merely to better treatment of: the soil, or to more abundant fertilization, or a mo>re inteWgent selection of seed, etc., as is commonly supposed,, but also in a measure to a differentiation of crops in accordanee with the adaptability of each particular type of soil. ?Original report, quintals per hoktare.
This article was originally published with the title "Conservation of Oil and Natural Gas" in Scientific American 105, 7, 142-143 (August 1911)