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Subsequent to the drilling of the Drake well in 1859, practically all of the early production of crude petroleum was devoted to two primary outlets—the manufacture of lamp or burning oils with the residue used as crude lubricants, the latter more than ample in supply. With rapidly increasing production, disposal of the heavier fractions became a problem, and as a result we find a number of patents issued between 1860 and 1880 covering apparatus for burning oil for heat and power purposes. One early recorded practical application was the conversion of a locomotive of the Boston & Albany Railroad to oil burning in 1881. In time, the geographical distribution of crude petroleum production spread over the country and introduced types of crude oils with high percentages of asphaltic material and little kerosine or gasoline. At the turn of the century the automobile was a curiosity. Diesel engines were in their infancy, and there were no aeroplanes. The phenomenal growth of the automotive industry rapidly created a demand for more and more gasoline, which could hardly be met by the content of gasoline present as such in crude petroleums. Burton is credited with the first process for commercially converting heavier fractions of petroleum into gasoline by thermal treatment or “cracking,” and today we find our motor fuel requirements being met in largest part by synthetic gasoline. This has reduced the amount of crude oil needed and the percentage of fuel oil available from a given quantity of crude, and has markedly changed its character, both chemically and physically, thereby creating a series of problems in its utilization and storage.
Hume, H. V.
Superintendent, The Atlantic Refining Co., Philadelphia, Pa.