The remarkable growth of modern cities, the building of small towns in the west, and the improvement in suburban and rural homes has created a demand for efficient means of illumination in the form of small household lighting plants. The development and improvement in electric lighting has induced an equal, if not greater, improvement in gas lighting. Up to the year 1875, the open-flame gas jet represented the most improved form of city lighting. Then came electricity, which for a time bade fair to supplant all other forms of illumination; but the relative high cost of electric lighting, even with the advantages it afforded, was a stimulus to improvement in less expensive forms of illuminants.
The invention of the incandescent-mantle gas burner enormously increased the opportunities for gas lighting and opened an inviting field of endeavor. In a relatively short time, three distinct types of gasoline lighting plants for household illumination came into common use, with a great number of different systems in each type. As a means of economical illumination the only rival of any consequence to the small gasoline-gas plant of today is acetylene. The dangers attending the use of these agents of illumination have been rapidly eliminated, until today when intelligently managed - they are fully as safe as any other means of artificial lighting. Gasoline plants are now in common use in cities where competition with all other forms of illumination require excellence in service to hold an established place.
In order that any mechanical appliance may be used with the best results, its principle of operation and mechanism must be thoroughly understood. In the case of gasoline plants, not only familiarity with the mechanism should be acquired but an intimate knowledge of gasoline and its characteristic properties should be gained, that the peculiarities of the plant may be more fully comprehended.
Gasoline is the first distillate of crude petroleum; that is, in the process of separation, the crude petroleum is distilled from a retort and the condensed vapors at different degrees of temperature form the various grades of gasoline, kerosene, lubricating oil, paraffin, etc. The crude oil is placed in the still and heated; the distillate that first comes from the condenser, at the lowest temperature of the still, is gasoline of a light spiritous nature. As the process of distillation continues, this part of the petroleum is entirely driven off and it is necessary to raise the temperature of the still in order to vaporize an additional portion of the oil. There is no distinct line of separation between the gasoline that first comes from the condenser and that which comes over after the temperature is raised, except that it is less of a spiritous nature and contains more oily matter. As the temperature of the retort is gradually raised, the distillate contains less and less of the spiritous and constantly more of the oily matter.
In order to grade gasoline for the market, the standard adopted was that of relative density. The distillations produced at various temperatures are mixed to produce various densities which form definite grades of gasoline. The Beaume hydrometer is a scale of relative specific gravities in which the different densities are expressed in degrees. The highest grade of gasoline produced by the first distillation is 90°Be.; that is, the hydrometer will sink in the gasoline to 90° on the scale. As the temperature of the retort is gradually raised, the distillate becomes heavier and the next commercial grade is 86° gasoline. The 86° gasoline contains a greater proportion of oily matter and a less amount of that of a spiritous nature. The next commercial grade that is produced, as the temperature is raised, is 76° gasoline, a still highly volatile spirit but containing more oil than the last. This process is kept up until there is an amount of oil in the distillate that can no longer be termed gasoline, when kerosene is distilled from the retort.
The following descriptions of gasoline and kerosene by B. L. Smith, State Oil Inspection Chemist of North Dakota, gives a definite idea of their properties and the requirements of the law in their regulation and sale.
"Gasoline is formed by the condensation of vapor that passes off at comparatively low temperatures during the distillation of crude petroleum. It has been common practice among refiners to collect as 'straight' gasoline all that distillate having a specific gravity above 60°Be. At present, the name applies broadly to all the lighter products of petroleum above 50°Be. in gravity, including products obtained from the 'casing - head' gases of oil wel's, by methods of compression and cooling, and also the 'cracked' gasoline formed by the decomposition of heavier oils when subjected to high temperature and pressure.
"It has been the custom to grade and sell gasoline according to 'high' or 'low' gravity test. Recent study and investigation has shown that specific gravity in itself is of very little value in determining the quality of a gasoline. It may be taken as an index of other properties, particularly its volatility, if information as to its source and method of production are at hand; but under present market conditions a specific-gravity determination is entirely inadequate. The specific-gravity test alone may give a high rating to a poor gasoline and a low rating to a good one. It has been discarded as a standard of comparison by the U. S. Bureau of Mines. It indicates nothing definite about the quality of a gasoline and in many cases it does not even approximate relative values. Volatility, that is, the ease with which it vaporizes, is the fundamental property that determines the grade, quality, and usefulness of gasoline. The Beaume* test, however, must remain the standard for grading gasolene until a more definite measure is adopted.
"The Oil Inspection Law (1917) for the State of North Dakota, states, that: 'all gasolines, sold or offered for sale in this State for household use, shall, when one hundred cubic centimeters are subjected to a distillation in a .flask - as described for distilling of oil - show not less than three (3) per cent. distilling at one hundred and fifty-eight (158) degrees Fahrenheit, and there shall not be more than six (6) per cent. residue at two hundred and eighty-four (284) degrees Fahrenheit, which shall be known as the chemical test for gasoline sold or offered for sale in this State for domestic purposes.'