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Former Manufactured Gas Plants in the United States

Comprehensive records of the numbers and actual location of former manufactured gas plants of this country do not exist. The author keeps an expanding tally based on his discoveries of such sites in the vast literature of manufactured gas. The known and estimated numbers of these plant sites in major cities are presented below, current through March 2011.

Estimated Numbers of Former Manufactured Gas  Plants & Other Coal Tar Sites of the United States

Category of Site

Number

Remarks

Brown’s Directory of North American Gas Plants (From 1887)

1500

Based on a 1985 USEPA contract snapshot assessment of numbers as reported and differentiated as single plants, in ten-year, even-decade tallies.

FMGP’s not reported to Brown’s Directory (From 1887)

1000

Non-detection by virtue of non-membership in gas associations or non-participation in voluntary reporting to publishers of the directory.
Non-reporting of multiple or replacement plants by some gas-making entities.
Not detected by the level-of-effort USEPA survey (1985) of Brown’s Directory by the decade only.

District Gas Holders built as below-ground components (to about 1910)

500

Common to larger cities with distribution holders and gas compressors used to extend the radius of distribution beyond the original area. Below-grade holders subject to out-leakage of residual tars accumulated from purified gas.

Pintsch plants at rail yards (1873-1960)

100-150

Produced compressed illuminating gas for use in all manner of human-occupied rail cars; not reported in any single journal or listing.

Gas plants at military posts, yards and stations (1849-1945) Gas plants and gas producers at arsenals and munitions plants

100-150

50-100

Virtually any post in operation prior to 1910; as a result of general isolation from commercial sources, particularly of the WW I era.

Institutional gas machines (1850-1950)

5000-10000

Hotels, resorts, hospitals, colleges and schools, estates and mansions, and asylums.

Kerosene refiners (from soft coal);1850-1870

100-150

Distilled lamp oil from boghead coal; mainly located in New England and generally operating with Scottish coal or oil shale.

Domestic/Residential gas machines (1890-1950)

10000- 15000

Large homes, mansions and country estates; Examples are the intact mansions of railroad magnates James J. Hill (Minneapolis) and Edward Harriman (Arden Estate, rural New York).

Gas producer plants (1880-1950)

11000- 15000

Fuel supply units for industrial plants incorporating furnaces or kilns; factories, smelters, iron and steel plants, brick, terra cotta and cement plants.

Bottled manufactured gas plants (1912-1940

100

Manufactured oil-enriched water gas or solvent-vapor gas; Compressed to liquid state into small, portable cylinders.

Compressed fuel briquette plants (1910-1940)

100

Blended and fine-crushed anthracite and bituminous coal; also coke breeze roasted to recover gas and tar residuals; then bound by-product tar and compressed into 2X2-inch briquettes.

Beehive coke works (1800-1930)

2000-4000

Produced coke without recovery of by-products.

Merchant and utility coke works (1890-1996)

250-300

Produced coal gas and coke with recovery of coal-tar by-products.

Tar distilleries (1900-1960)

200-400

Converted gasworks tar residues to industrial chemicals and useful by-products.

Coal-Tar-Based Dyestuff Plants 150-200 Product of WW I embargoes; seven such plants known to U.S. Bur. Commerce in 1914; ca. 150 known in 1917.

Wood preservation plants

800-1000

Pressure and non-pressure impregnation of timber with dominantly coal-tar products, mainly creosote; many lumber yards also participated.

Experimental Coal Gasification Plants. U.S. Bureau of Mines (1947-1990)

5-15

Pilot plants funded to universities, petroleum companies and various research institutes and  firms, operating mainly on WW II German technologies (1938-1945)

Coal & Oil Shale Gasification & Synthetic Fuel Pilot Plants; U.S. Department of Energy and predecessors (1970-1985)

63-75

Widespread in many States; operations typically lacked acceptable management of tar residuals.

Totals

33,010 - 50,308

Individual sites at which substantial amounts of coal-tar residuals can be expected to be countered.

Compiled by Allen W. Hatheway, on various lines of evidence; rev. Oct 2008

Relative Numbers of Former Manufactured Gas Plants in Major American Cities

City

FMGPs

Other Coal-Tar Sites

Special Situations

Atlanta

9

Estimated 50

Atlanta Gas Light Company name has been retained through several holding-company changes in ownership. Along with the Washington (D.C.) Gas Light Co. and Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. (Chicago), believed unique in the U.S. for this particular situation of name retention.

Baltimore

44

Estimated 200

Gas holders of Baltimore were largely demolished, from 1996 through 2000.

Boston

52

Estimated 100

Pre-1911: Consolidated by Boston Consolidated Gas Co.; now Boston Gas Company.

Chicago

116

Estimated 400

1897-1898: Consolidation begun by Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co., and completed in 1907, with ownership control held by Samuel Insull.

Denver

30

Estimated 35

1891: Consolidated by Denver Consolidated Gas Co.1893: reconsolidated by Denver Gas & Electric Co.1910: reconsolidated by Henry L. Doherty as Pubic Service Co. of Colorado

Detroit

50

Estimated 350

Unknown date: Consolidated by Detroit City Gas Co., a private utility; later American Light & Traction Company.

Kansas City, MO

13

Estimated 50

Ca. 1895: Consolidated by UGI, Philadelphia; then Cities Service Co., ca. 1912.

Kansas City, KS

9

Estimated 20

Single-firm monopoly; Various owners; Eventually Cities Service Co.

Long Beach, CA

9

Estimated 20

1895: Colonized by UGI, of Philadelphia, PA
1914: Consolidated by Southern Counties Gas Co.
ca. 1925: municipal take-over of gas services.

Los Angeles, CA

32

Estimated 50

Eventual takeover by UGI spin-off Pacific Gas Improvement Co., formed in 1882; grew Into today’s Pacific Enterprises.

New Orleans, LA

16

Estimated 30

  

New York City 

99

Approximately 1000 throughout the five boroughs

1884: Partial consolidation of 7 gas companies into Consolidated Gas Co. 1891: Gas war between the 16 companies in place post-1891: continued consolidation1936: consolidation into Consolidated Edison Co. of New York City.

Brooklyn 30

Oakland, CA

6

Undetermined

1905: consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Philadelphia City and its near Suburbs

17

Many more than 7

First gas plant (1834) a municipal venture; plagued for decades by scandal; City contracts with UGI for long term operation, urban and suburban systems strong and operated apart but all owned, after 1882 by UGI, operating with J.P. Morgan financing.

Phoenix, AZ

3

Undetermined

1882: originated by UGI; passed to Pacific Gas Improvement Co., then to PG&E.
1920: Arizona Public Service Company formed.

Pittsburgh, PA

9

Many more than 9

Topographic irregularity of terrain suggests original need for relatively greater number of gas plants.

Portland, OR

15

More than 3

Never any competition; growth of original 1852 firm, Portland Gas Light & Coke Co.; owned by EBASCO

Providence, RI

5

Undetermined

Remained in perpetual control by Providence Gas Co.

St. Louis, MO

54

26 known; 150 expected

1890: Consolidated by Laclede Gas Light Co., third historic gas company of the City, with 1909 control by the American Light & Traction Co. of NYC, NY.

Sacramento, CA

7

Undetermined

1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Salt Lake City, UT

5

More than 6

1920s: Consolidated by Utah Power & Light Co.

San Antonio, TX

2

More than 2

ca. 1894: Municipal take-over.

San Diego, CA

Unknown

Undetermined

Pre-1906: Consolidated by H.M. Byllesby & Co., of Chicago.

San Francisco, CA

31

Undetermined

ca. 1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

San Jose, CA

5

Undetermined

ca. 1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Seattle, WA

10

Undetermined

Pre-1913: Consolidated by Pacific Northwest Public Service Company

Washington, D.C.

10

Undetermined

Post-1906: Consolidated by Washington Gas Light Co., the original manufactured gas company

Compiled by Allen W. Hatheway, as presently known to or suspected by the author. Note that district stations are counted in FMGP column, when known as such and as potential locations of tar residuals.

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