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Prior to World War II practically all diesel engine manufacturers demanded, either in their specifications or in recommendations for diesel fuel, that (1) straight-run distillate should be used and (2) the product should have a cetane number of 50+ and a diesel index of 50 to 60. At the close of World War II, the pent-up demand for diesel power was released to the manufacturers of automotive, stationary, marine, and railroad diesel engines. As a result more new diesel engines went into use than at any previous time in our history. Each succeeding year saw a new record in diesel engine production. Even with full production, the backlog of orders continued to mount. The refinery faced the problem of meeting increased demand from the rapidly growing diesel engine industry and from the fast-developing domestic fuel oil market. Also, with the increased octane demand of motor gasoline, the virgin distillate which had supplied the diesel fuel market was needed as catalytic-cracking charge-stock for the production of high octane gasoline. For example, during the past five years the octane increase of approximately seven numbers required about twice as much catalytic-cracked gasoline, which in turn required twice as much catalytic-cracking charge-stock. By 1953 the total requirements of the diesel industry exceeded the available supply of straight-run distillates; the railroad diesel fuel requirement alone increased from one billion gallons in 1948 to over three billion gallons in 1953. All of these factors have caused more and more diesel operators to seek other fuels that are available and economical to use by the standards of today. Figure 1 indicates the transition to lower cetane fuels by one industry— the railroads. The trend in the railroad industry is generally representative of the changes in fuel specifications in other industries as well. The changes in railroad diesel requirements, cetane-wise, indicate the increased use of furnace oils. While this chart, based on sales to railroads, does not show the actual volume, it clearly defines the trend to No. 2 furnace oil for this use and probably is a fair indication of what is happening also in the marine and stationary diesel fields.
Messick, Harold V.
Research Engineer, Ashland Oil and Refining Co., Ashland, Ky.