The wells are torpedoed on completion with from 8 to 10 quarts of nitroglycerine, at a cost of 4 dols. (16s.) per quart. The torpedoes employed in the Canadian oil field are much smaller than those used for a similar purpose in the United States, the tin shell being only 6 ft. in length by 3 in. in diameter. We were enabled to witness the operation of torpedoing a well, and the following particulars, based on notes taken at the time, may be of interest: The torpedo case, which was furnished with a tube or "anchor" at the lower end, 8 ft. in length, was placed in the mouth of the well and suspended so that its upper end was level with the surface of the ground. Eight quarts of nitroglycerine, which was in a tin can, was then poured into the torpedo case, and the torpedo was carefully lowered into the well, which contained at the time about 250 ft. of water, until the end of the anchor rested on the bottom of the well. A traveling primer or "go-devil squib" was then prepared as follows: A tin cone, 14 in. in length by 2 in. in diameter at the open end, was partially filled with sand to give it the necessary weight.
A piece of double tape fuse, 2 ft. long, was inserted into a Nobel's treble detonator, and over the detonator and a portion of the fuse a perforated tin tube or sheath was passed. This tube was then inserted through a hole in a strip of tin fixed across the mouth of the conical cup into the sand, so that the detonator was embedded. The sand was then saturated with nitroglycerine, the fuse lighted, and the primer dropped into the well. In about 45 seconds there was a perceptible tremor of the ground, immediately followed by a slight sound of the explosion. After an interval of a second or two there was a gurgling noise, and a magnificent black fountain shot up twice as high as the derrick, upon which all the spectators ran for shelter from the impending shower of oil and water. The well not being a flowing one, the outrush was only of momentary duration, and within a few minutes the drillers were at work removing from the well, by means of the sand pump, the fragments of rock which had been detached by the explosion.
On the table are specimens of this rock, which I obtained at the time.
The maximum yield per well is ten barrels per day, and the minimum yield for which it is considered profitable to pump is a quarter of a barrel per day. The yield being in some cases so small, it is usual to pump a number of wells through the agency of one engine, the various pumps being connected with the motor by means of wooden rods. In one instance I saw as many as eighty wells being thus pumped from one center. The motive power was a 70 h.p. engine, which communicated motion, similar to that of the balance wheel of a watch, to a large horizontal wheel. From this wheel six main rod lines radiated, the length of stroke of the main lines being 16 in., and the rate of movement 32 strokes per minute. Some of the wells being pumped from this center were from one-half to three-quarters of a mile distant, and altogether about eight miles of rods were employed in the pumping of the eighty wells.
The pipe line system in Canada has not been fully developed, and accordingly the well owner has to convey his oil by road to the nearest receiving station. Thus from the Euphemia oil field the oil has to be "teamed" 17 miles, to Bothwell. For the conveyance of the oil by road a long and slightly conical wooden tank or barrel, resting horizontally on a wagon, is employed. These vessels hold from eight to ten barrels of oil. The Petrolia Crude Oil and Tanking Company is the principal transporting and storing company. The storage charge is one cent (½d.) per barrel per month, and the delivery charge two cents per barrel. The petroleum produced in the Oil Springs field is stored separately from that obtained in the Petrolia field.
The storage takes place for the most part in large underground tanks excavated in the retentive clay. These remarkable tanks are often as much as 30 ft. in diameter by 60 ft. in depth, and hold from 5,000 to 8,000 barrels. In the construction of the tanks the alluvial soil, of which there is about 18 ft. or 20 ft. above the clay, is curbed with wood and thoroughly puddled with clay. On the completion of the excavation, the entire vertical surface is then lined with rings of pine wood, so that the upper part down to the solid clay is doubly lined. The bottom is not lined. The roof of the tank is of wood, covered with clay. The cost of such a tank is about 22 cents (11d.) per barrel, or 1,760 dols. (£363) for an 8,000 barrel tank, and the time occupied in making such a tank is about six weeks.
The crude petroleum from the Petrolia field usually has a specific gravity ranging from 0.859 to 0.877, while the specific gravity of the petroleum from the Oil Springs field ranges from 0.844 to 0.854.
The oil occurs in the corniferous limestone, and buildings constructed of this stone frequently exude petroleum in hot weather.
Canadian crude petroleum is of a black color, and possesses a very disagreeable odor, due to the presence of sulphur compounds. These characteristics are shown by the samples on the table, for some of which I am indebted to Mr. James Kerr, secretary of the Petrolia Oil Exchange.
The stills used in the process of refining the crude oil are horizontal two-flued cylinders, 30 ft. in length by 10 ft. in diameter, provided with six 2 in. vapor pipes. The charge is 260 barrels, and the following is an outline of the method of working. Assuming the still to be charged on Monday morning, heating is commenced about 7 A.M., and the naphtha begins to come over about 8 A.M. Of this product about six barrels is obtained in the case of Petrolia crude, or 7½ barrels in the case of Oil Springs crude. The distillation of the naphtha takes from 2 to 3 hours, say till 10:30 A.M. The heat is then increased, and the distillation of the kerosene commences about noon, and continues till about 10 P.M. Of the kerosene distillate about 80 barrels are obtained. The first portion of the kerosene distillate is usually collected separately, is steamed to drive off the more volatile hydrocarbons, and is then mixed with the remainder of the kerosene distillate. The product which then commences to distill is known as tailings. This is collected separately and is redistilled. The distillation of the tailings continues till about 5 A.M. on Wednesday, by which time about 80 barrels has been obtained.
Steam is then passed into the still through a perforated pipe extending to the bottom, and about 21 barrels of "gas oil" is distilled over. The additional quantity of kerosene obtained on redistilling the tailings brings up the total yield of this product to about 42 per cent. of the crude oil. The gas oil is sold for the manufacture of illuminating gas. The residue is distilled for lubricating oils and paraffin.
The agitator in which the kerosene distillate is treated commonly takes a charge of 465 barrels. To this quantity of distillate two carboys of oil of vitriol is added, and the oil and acid are agitated together for 20 minutes. The tarry acid having been allowed to settle is drawn off, and seven carboys more of acid is added. Agitation having been effected for 30 or 40 minutes, the tarry acid is removed as before. Another similar treatment with seven carboys of acid follows, and occasionally a fourth addition of acid is made. The oil is next allowed to remain at rest for an hour, any acid which settles out being drawn off, and cold (or, in winter, slightly warmed) water is allowed to pass down through the oil in fine streams, this treatment being continued, without agitation of the oil, for half an hour, or until the dark color which the oil assumed on treatment with acid is removed. The water is then drawn off, 10 barrels of solution of caustic soda (sp. gr. 15° B.) is added, and agitation conducted for 15 minutes. The caustic soda solution having been drawn off, 30 barrels of a solution of litharge in caustic soda is added. This solution is made by dissolving caustic soda in water to a density of 18° B. and then adding the litharge.
Agitation with this solution is continued for about six hours, or until the oil is thoroughly deodorized. About 100 lb. of sublimed sulphur is then added, and the agitation is continued for another two hours. The oil having been allowed to settle all night, the litharge solution is drawn off, and the oil run into a shallow tank or "bleacher," where it is exposed to the light to improve its color, and is, if necessary, steamed to drive off the lighter hydrocarbons and raise the flashing point to the legal minimum of 95° F. To raise the flashing point from 73° F. to 95° F. (Abel test) is stated to involve in practice a loss of 10 per cent., the burning quality of the oil being at the same time seriously impaired, and upon this ground the Ontario refiners in 1886 petitioned for a reduction of the test standard.
The average percentage yield of the various products is given in the following table:
|Loss (including water).||10|
There are a dozen petroleum refineries in Canada, and the annual outturn of kerosene is about 200,000 barrels of 45 imperial gallons per annum. The total consumption of kerosene in Canada is about 300,000 barrels, one-third of which is manufactured in the United States. The United States oil is subject to a duty of 40 cents on the package and 7-1/5 cents per imperial gallon on the contents, besides which there is an inspection fee of 30 cents per package. Of lubricating oils the outturn is from 75,000 to 100,000 barrels per annum.
The quality of Canadian kerosene has been greatly improved of late years, but notwithstanding the elaborate process of refining, the oil, though thoroughly deodorized and of good color, contains sulphur, and of course evolves sulphur compounds in its combustion.
The rules of the Petrolia Oil Exchange provide that refined kerosene shall be of the odor "locally known as inoffensive," and shall "absolutely stand the test of oxide of lead in a strong solution of caustic soda without change of color."
The "burning percentage" in the case of "Extra Refined Oil," "Water White" in color, and of specific gravity not exceeding 0.800, is required to be not less than 70; in the case of "No. 1 Refined Oil," "Prime White" in color, not less than 60; and in the case of "No. 2 Refined Oil," "Standard White" in color, to be not less than 55.
The "burning percentage" is determined by the use of a lamp thus described: "The bowl of the lamp is cylindrical, 4 in. in diameter and 2¾ in. deep, with a neck placed thereon of such a height that the top of the wick tube is 3 in. above the bowl. A sun-hinge burner is used, taking a wick 7/8 in. wide and 1/8 in. thick, and a chimney about 8 in. long." The test is conducted as follows: "The lamp bowl is filled with the oil and weighed, then lighted and turned up full flame just below the smoking point, and burned without interference till 12 oz. of the oil is consumed. The quantity consumed during the first hour and the last hour is noted." The ratio of the two quantities is the measure of the burning quality, and the percentage that the latter quantity is of the former is the "burning percentage" referred to.