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The Broxburn Oil Company's Works

 

The works of the Broxburn Oil Company (Limited) were visited yesterday by a party numbering over 150 ladies and gentlemen, members and friends of members of the Edinburgh Association of Science and Arts. Travelling in special carriages by ordinary train from the Waverley Station to Drumshoreland, the party was conveyed thence along the oil company's private line of rail to the new works at the Roman Camp, Drumshorelaud Moor, and afterwards to the refinery at Broxburn.

At the outset the company was divided up into three groups and placed under the separate guidance of Mr Norman Mcfarlane Henderson, the works manager; Mr John Stewart and Mr John Woodrow, the chemist and his assistant in connection with the works. The new crude oilworks at the Roman Camp were first visited. Here an opportunity was afforded of witnessing the effective method of "tipping " the loaded railway waggons as they are brought from the pit-head into the breaking machine. By means of this machine the shale is broken into cubes of about three inches. The broken shale descends by a shoot and is fed into hutches, which are taken on rails by means of a cable line to the platform at the top of the different benches of retorts. The retorts are vertical and are about 28 feet long. The upper part is made of cast- iron, while the lower is built of brick. The shale is discharged into malleable-iron hoppers, attached to the retorts, which are capable of holding 18 hours' supply of raw shale, with which they mechanically feed the retorts beneath. Oil is first distilled off the shale in the cast-iron part at a temperature of 900 degrees. Fahr., and the spent shale is then passed down into the brick part of the retort, which is kept at a constant temperature of about 1300 degrees Fahr. by gas generated in a gas producers, and introduced at ports on the sides.

The products of distillation are drawn off in the form of vapours by a branch pipe at the top of the retort. At the Broxburn works there are 500 retorts in operation, and with the Broxburn seam of shale the yield of crude oil by them is about 32 gallons to the ton of shale, and the yield of sulphate of l ammonia 441b. per ten of shale. At the company's Roman Camp works there are 240 retorts in use, and with the Drumshoreland seams of shale the yield of crude oil is 20 gallons to the ton of shale, while the yield of sulphate of ammonia is about 701b. to the ton. The products of distillation on being condensed and separated are crude oil and ammonia water. 'The oil is pumped to the refinery and the ammonia water to the ammonia house, and there converted into sulphate of ammonia, which is in great request as a fertiliser.

These several processes having been examined, the party rejoined the train, and were conveyed to the Broxburn works, about two miles distant, where, after being hospitably entertained at t the expense of the oil company (who were represented, among others, by Mr James G. Leadbetter and Mr Henderson, directors, and Mr William Montgomery, jun., secretary), they l were shown the further processes entailed in refining and fractioning the crude oil into various qualities of oils, solid paraffin, and in the manufacture of candies. The crude oil is pumped to the refinery, where it is received into a large tank capable of containing 50,000 gallons. Then it is pumped into charging tanks, from which by gravity it flows to a set of crude stills coupled together by pipes in series. The crude oil is freed from impurities and brought to the required fractionation by repeated distillations by a continuous system, the invention of the respected works manager, Mr Henderson, who also planned and superintended the construction of the Roman Camp works.

The entire works of the Broxburn Oil Company cover upwards of 250 acres of ground, and give employment to about 1700 persons, the sum paid in wages averaging £105,000 a year. Some 1300 tons of shale are put through the retorts per day, and over 11,000,000 gallons of crude oil are refined per annum. The total refined paraffin produced is about 4000 tons per annum, the greater proportion of which is made into candles at the Broxburn works. The candle works are extensive, and are capable of making from 14 to 16 tons of candles per day. Before leaving the boardroom, where lunch was partaken of, Councillor Hunter, the president of the association, took occasion to express the indebtedness of the members of the company for the kindness which had been shown them, and Mr Leadbetter replied on behalf of the Broxburn Oil Company.

 

Glasgow Herald 17th September 1895

 

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