PRIME MOVERS AND POWER PLANT MACHINERY.
cally all oil pools developed natural gas in varying amounts has been
present. At first the fuel value of natural gas was not appreciated
or understood. Coal or wood was hauled for fuel at many wells and
the gas was allowed to waste. Even after gas came into'general use
as a fuel, no effort was made to conserve it for the future, probably
because there was more than enough for all power needs, even with
very wasteful use. This waste of natural gas continues in oil fields.
Only rapid depletion has forced the operators to study conservation
and economical use. In 1922 one of the larger oil companies of
California found some of its 40-horsepower boilers consuming enough
natural gas to produce 240 horsepower if burned with enough air in
boilers of suitable size.
In many fields natural gas as associated with petroleum has never
been marketed, but has been allowed to waste when the supply has
been greater than that needed in the field. The supply has therefore
been depleted. Among the chief operating problems to-day are the
conservation of gas to meet field needs and the study of oil-field
conditions to determine the best use of gas under steam boilers or in
The efficient combustion of natural gas at boilers depends on the
size of the fire box, which must be large enough to supply the volume
needed for complete combustion of the mixture of air and gas, and
to regulate the mixture of air and gas in the proper ratio to produce
complete combustion without excess of air.
Some of the oil companies have built a brick subfurnace under the
fire box in locomotive-type boilers to increase the space for the burn-
ing gases, and have regulated the air supply by closing all openings to
the fire box except at the point of regulation. In most locomotive-
type boilers the mud ring extends well into the fire box so that the
subfurnace can not be of greater sectional area than the mud-ring
Plate IV shows a type of subfurnace of a company in the Kansas
and Oklahoma oil fields.
Gas burners are usually classified as high-pressure and low-
pressure burners. The latter type has been investigated and de-
scribed by engineers7 of the Bureau of Mines. Burners with
a pressure below 6 pounds to the square inch are classed as low-
pressure burners. Steam or compressed air is often used to force the
proper mixture of the air with the gas when some deficiency of plant
construction, equipment, or operation causes insufficient draft, boiler,
or burner capacity, or gas supply.
7 Brewer, G. S., Youker, M. P., and Beecher, C. E., The use of low-pressure gas burners
in oil-field boilers. The Mid-Continent Year Book, 1921, pp. 77-121.
George, H. C. Surface Machinery and Methods for Oil-Well Pumping. Washington D.C.. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12407/. Accessed March 1, 2015.