|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Inexpensive energy is the lifeblood of the modern economy and by the middle of the Nineteenth Century; people began the large-scale use of fossil fuels. The first fossil fuels used were coal, kerosene and a gas derived from bituminous coal called coal gas.
Bituminous coal is a soft black coal that contains a tar-like substance called bitumen. Bituminous coal is a middle grade coal, higher in quality than lignite coal but not as high quality as anthracite coal. Bituminous coal usually forms from lignite coal from the high pressures exerted by geologic forces. Lignite coal is a soft, brown coal. Its heat output is lower than bibulous coal and is the lowest quality of coal available. Anthracite is harder than bituminous coal and has a higher heat output.
Processors make this flammable gas from coal and deliver it via pipelines. Commonly called town gas, coal gas became popular during the mid Eighteenth Century because it was easy to handle and better than kerosene for heating, cooking, lighting and manufacturing. By the late 1800's gas streetlights in towns and cities were a common sight. The light produced by coal gas is bright yellow.
Refiners processed kerosene from crude oil. Kerosene is a liquid and found use mostly in lighting and heating. A byproduct of kerosene, gasoline, many considered a nuisance not useful for anything.
Drillers searching for coal usually found natural gas in the process. This gas was highly flammable, hard to handle and considered a nuisance gas. Steel maker Andrew Carnegie pioneered using natural gas in his foundries in the 1880's and proved that using natural gas was feasible. In 1885, he claimed that using natural gas saved 10,000 tons of coal a day in his huge blast furnaces. On January 20, 1886 drillers discovered a huge gas well in Findlay, Ohio that drillers could not control, so great was its gas flow. The flame plume from the well burned for four months.
Gas in Indiana
A man named G. Bates found the first major deposit of natural gas in 1867 while drilling for coal. A decade later W. W. Worthington found another huge deposit in his futile search for coal. Both men, disappointed by the lack of coal, capped their wells. A man named George W. Carter had traveled to Findley, Ohio, witnessed the huge gas plume and was struck by the possibilities. After returning to Indiana he convinced investors in Fort Wayne and Eaton Indiana that the hole drilled by W. W. Worthington was worth drilling. His persistence led to the formation of the Eaton Mining & Gas Company on February 26, 1886.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning