The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas, Volume XX, No. 18, May 2, 1908 Devoted to the Conversion, Transmission and Distribution of Energy
Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas
Devoted to the Conversion, Transmission and Distribution of Energy.
Volume XX. SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., MAY 2, 1908 No. 18
LIGHTING SYSTEM OF THE ORCUTT OIL FIELDS.
By CLEM A. COPELAND.
Consulting Engineer, Los Angeles, Cal.
The large and deep-lying oil-sand lakes and subterraneangas works, commencing with the southern rim ofthe Santa Maria Valley and stretching away for a dozenmiles southward toward Santa Barbara, contribute some14,600,000 barrels of high gravity refining and fuel oil toCalifornia’s annual production of 40,000,000 barrels.
With the assistance of two eight-inch pipe lines 32 milesto Port Harford, a similar line 48 miles across the Isthmusof Panama, and a goodly fleet of vessels, the Union OilCompany scatters this oil from Seattle to San Diego, andfrom New York to Japan. Chile also has a share for theworking of its nitre beds and its railways.
The little towns of Santa Maria and Orcutt receive withopen pipes a tithe of the gas which nature has here stored,and which would otherwise escape the many safety valves,while the steam rig engines have often been run with directgas pressure from the wells.
This land of gas and gushers is difficult of control, and isalways ready to pop off at from 100 to 400 pounds pressurethrough the many 3,000-foot tubes which puncture its depths.When a new gusher is brought in, it sprays the adjacenthills with a glistening shadow of petroleum and is no respecterof persons or property. One new and frisky furyflowed 12,000 barrels per day, and delivered 4,000,000 cubicfeet of gas every 24 hours for four months, gradually droppingto a production of 7,000 barrels, which it maintainedfor nearly a year, finally diminishing to 3,500, and now, afterthree and a third years, is still producing 250 barrels per day,having delivered during this time 3,000,000 barrels of petroleum,and enough gas to last San Francisco for three years.This is, with perhaps one exception, the most remarkablewell in the history of oil industry, and is widely known as“Hartwell No. 1.”
The district contains two groups of wells, one contiguousto Orcutt, and the other near Lompoc. Danger fromfire due to the excessive gas pressure of the Orcutt fields isexceedingly great, as evidenced by the burning of four “rigs”in the first two years of its history, during which time therewere fifteen wells brought into production. The cost of these“rigs” exceeded the cost of the lighting plant, which is describedin these notes, and no fires have since occurred inthe sixty wells now producing. The advisability of the plantis therefore quite patent.
The lighting system employed in the Orcutt oil fieldsis perhaps only interesting in illustrating how the methodsemployed in large undertakings may be used to great advantagein the smaller enterprises to effect a large savingand to simplify conventional methods. The smaller undertakingsoften afford opportunities of saving a larger percentagein cost and operation in connection with the largerones. In the present instance, an economy of $9,000 wasmade in a system which would have cost $30,000 if constructedalong conventional lines.
As may be seen from some of the views in these notes,the country covered by the system is very hilly and stony,hard sandstone being everywhere prominent. Trees wouldhave interfered considerably over perhaps a third of the linewith ordinary construction, and being oak, it would havecost heavily to eliminate them. Although the winters inthis section are very bleak and windy, no snow has everfallen. The attached map shows the wells, which are unusuallyfar apart and scattered over some 5,000 acres of land.
Long span work, employing copper cables, and usingthe oil-well derricks for support, seemed well to meet theseand all other conditions in the most economical fashion.The adoption of long span work effected a large saving inthe length of line and wire needed to cover the territory,since air-line routes could be covered in all cases acrosscountry, without any care being taken to lay out a pole linewhich would conform to some general inflexible plan.Moreover, much vertical distance was saved in not havingto follow the contour of the country. Incidentally the longspan work makes the installation of new pieces of line veryeasy and simple, and no large amount of material need bekept on hand for expansion purposes.
Where conditions are rapidly changing, as in the presentinstance, existing lines having to be moved because of theabandonment of wells or re-arrangement as new wells comein amongst the old ones, are easily changed, with but littleloss of labor and material. The derricks, 80 feet in height,make ideal supports for long-span construction, and steelframes, heavy enough for the largest size of wire, eventuallywere made of “scrap” pipe set in cement. Where the derrickswere not available, redwood “dead-men” were also usedbetween derricks which were near together, but on oppositesides of rises or hills. The present system of distribution is72,550 feet, or 13.75 miles, in length, and consists of 70 derricks,9 frames, and 10 “dead-men,” making the average spanabout 800 feet. The seven-strand bare copper cables usedin this work were furnished under rigid specifications previouslydescribed in the “Journal,” by the Standard UndergroundCable Company. One will observe from the mapand photos that there are many spans 1,500 feet in length,one span of 2,000 feet between derricks and one 2,600 feetfrom one frame to another. The sags allowed correspondto 60 feet on a 2,000-foot span, and the cables were verysmall for such work, No. 6 being used for the greatest lengths,which occurs as a neutral on the longest spans. The sizesused are Nos. 2, 4, and 6.
As the cables were suspended high above the ground andgood construction was relied upon for safety from breakage,they were used without insulation, and a large saving wasthus effected. “Goose-egg” strain insulators, first designedby the writer several years ago, are used to insulate thecables. Copper sleeves were used to splice the cables and toloop them to the insulators.
It is of considerable interest to observe the action ofthese light cables in a high wind, for even in the most gustystorms there is no whipping action. In the longer spans, thecables hang absolutely parallel and sway in a most deliberatemanner from 12 to 25 feet out of line.
Inasmuch as fuel economy is of little importance, sinceeither waste gas or oil can be used, a large drop in the distributingsystem is permissible, and a radius of three or fourmiles from the power-house can be economically attained bythe use of 210 to 250 volt lamps on the three-wire direct-currentsystem. At present the maximum distance is 255miles, and four voltages of lamps are employed. The derricksare wired on the two-wire system with No. 14 T. B.W. P. medium, hard-drawn wire, care being taken to keepall wires on the outside of derrick house wherever possible.Although the wires and insulators have been in some casescompletely sprayed and saturated with oil from the gushers,no troubles of insulation have been experienced.
At the time this work was started, there was a smallplant on the Pinal Oil Company’s property near by, wherekeyed sockets were used until one of the drillers was injuredby a gas explosion caused by turning off one of thelights. This, of course, suggested the care necessary toguard against such accidents. In the present installation,double-pole fuses were constructed for each derrick and tankhouse, by using two weatherproof sockets and Edison plugfuses, all inclosed in a gauze cylinder like a Davy mine lamp.Switches for tank house and derricks were also inclosed ingauze. In wiring the derricks, sleeves were used for splicing,so that in the whole system no solder nor torch was used.Specially designed heavy wire lamp guards and portables,with wires inclosed in cotton-covered garden hose, are otherfeatures of the derrick wiring. When drilling is commenced,the derrick is wired for eleven lights. Tank houses, somefifteen or twenty in number, are wired with a light over eachtank.
The power-house is of only passing interest, being designedfor reliability and minimum first cost, and with theidea of transplanting it to some new location should futureconditions dictate. The view shows two 10×10 Shepherdengines, clutched to either end of a shaft, from which two45-kilowatt, 250-volt, direct-current Westinghouse generatorsare belted. In case of accident to one generator, a switchon the switchboard converts the 3-wire to a 2-wire system,using the two outside wires as one, and the neutral as thereturn conductor. Three 48×14 fire-tube boilers supply steamat 125 pounds pressure. The power-house is in a perenniallycool location on a hill crest, so that it could be made smalland cozy.
The system has been in uninterrupted and satisfactoryoperation for two years. The only trouble during the timewas caused by one wire of one span breaking, due to animperfection in splicing. The section has long-continued andsevere winds, much rain and cold weather, but two wintershave developed no imperfections. Although the lights burnall night, no interruption has been experienced. Reliabilityis important, since, if the lights failed, there would be atemptation to light candles or lanterns at a critical time.
The system was designed and supervised by Mr. Copeland,of Messrs. Clem. Copeland and F. R. Schanck, consultingengineers for the Union Oil Company. Mr. C. W. Crawley,who is at present electrical superintendent, was foremanof construction.
ALCOHOL vs. GASOLINE FOR POWER.
The Technologic Branch of the United States GeologicalSurvey, under the direction of Mr. J. A. Holmes, has recentlycompleted an elaborate series of tests on the relativevalue of gasoline and alcohol as producers of power. Thetests, over two thousand in number, probably represent themost complete and exact investigation of the kind that hasbeen made, either in this country or abroad, and includesmuch original research work.
Correspondingly well-designed alcohol and gasoline engineswhen running under the most advantageous conditionsfor each, will consume equal volumes of the fuel forwhich they are designed. This statement is based on theresults of many tests made under the most favorable practicalconditions that could be obtained for the size and typeof engines and fuel used. An average of the minimum fuelconsumption values thus obtained, gives a like figure ofeight-tenths (.8) of a pint per hour per brake horsepower forgasoline and alcohol.
Considering that the heat value of a gallon of the denaturedalcohol is only a little over six-tenths (.6) that of agallon of the gasoline, this result of equal fuel consumptionby volume for gasoline and alcohol engines probably representsthe best comparative value that can be obtained foralcohol at the present time, as is also indicated by continentalpractice. Though the possibility of obtaining thiscondition in practice here has been thoroughly demonstratedat the Government Fuel-testing Plant, it yet remains withthe engine manufacturers to make the “equal fuel consumptionby volume” a commercial basis of comparison.
The gasoline engines that were used in these tests arerepresentative of the standard American stationary-enginetypes, rating at 10 to 15 horsepower, at speeds of from 250to 300 revolutions per minute, while the alcohol engines wereof similar construction and identical in size with the gasolineengines.
The air was not preheated for the above tests on alcoholand gasoline, and the engines were equipped with the ordinarytypes of constant level suction lift and constant levelpressure spray carburetters. Many special tests with air preheatedto various temperatures up to 250° Fahrenheit, andtests with special carburetters were made, but no beneficialeffects traceable to better carburation were found when theengines were handled under the special test conditions, includingconstant speed and best load.
The commercial completely denatured alcohol referred tois 100 parts ethyl alcohol plus 10 parts methyl alcohol plusone-half of one part benzol, and corresponds very closely to 94per cent by volume or 91 per cent by weight ethyl alcohol(grain alcohol).
No detrimental effects on the cylinder walls and valves ofthe engines were found from the use of the above denaturedalcohol.
The lowest consumption values were obtained with thehighest compression that it was found practical