Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/501

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485
GAS MANUFACTURE AND GAS COMPANIES.

very considerable. Comparison of the result of a year's work obtained by the New York Mutual Company, which uses naphtha for an enricher, and the Boston Gaslight Company, which uses Albertite, shows that the former obtained 10,975 cubic feet of 19 to 20 candle-power gas per ton of coal used, while the latter obtained only 8,779 cubic feet of 18 to 19 candle gas, a difference of 2,196 cubic feet per ton in favor of the naphtha.

In regard to the alleged danger in keeping large quantities of naphtha in store, the commissioners say: "There is no doubt that it is more difficult to extinguish burning naphtha than, burning coal; but the statements that naphtha is like gunpowder (explosive), and dangerous to store, are erroneous. In fact, it is almost impossible to mix naphtha-vapor and air so as to make an explosive mixture, for the reason that, when the proper amount of oxygen is present, the mixture is diluted with so large a bulk of inert nitrogen that it cannot be ignited." In regard to the supply, they see no reason to fear that it will be inadequate to "any demand which may exist in the future." The oil-region extends over a wide expanse of country, embracing large districts in Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Western Canada. The production in 1874 was 10,910,303 barrels—larger than ever before by more than 1,000,000 barrels; the average price was 2.8 cents per gallon, or $1.17 per barrel.

The objections urged against water-gas are, that its specific gravity is too high; that it contains a large proportion of the extremely poisonous gas, carbonic oxide; and that the manufacture, being in its infancy, is not yet proved to be a success. The first is of no importance, since the specific gravity, unless it is caused by the presence of a large amount of carbonic anhydride, is high in almost exact proportion as the illumination power is great.

The commissioners say of the second objection that it is, in their opinion, "sufficient to entirely prevent the use of the mixed hydrogen and carbonic oxide" (unenriched water-gas) "alone for heating purposes, for the reason that, since it is devoid of odor, its escape from pipes and diffusion through the air of an inhabited room, in dangerous amount, could not be detected. The addition to it of petroleum-gas as an enricher, for illuminating purposes, at once imparts to it a peculiar odor, as strong as that of coal-gas, which would lead to the immediate detection of a leak." Carbonic oxide is one of the most active poisons, producing, when inhaled, speedy death. Unlike carbonic acid, which, when it poisons, does so by merely preventing the entrance of air or oxygen into the lungs, as water does in case of drowning, so that persons affected can be readily resuscitated, it is a true physiological poison. And while the first can be rendered harmless by a moderate dilution with atmospheric air, the last produces death almost as readily when diluted as when pure. It forms a com-