Experimenting With Oil as Fuel.
For some months we have been watching with interest an experiment in oil burning upon a large scale undertaken by the Tremont and Suffolk Mills at Lowell, Mass. The decision, after a thoroughly practical trial, to adopt this class of fuel, and a continuance in its use, would, in the case of these extensive and well-known mills, have an important bearing upon the immediate future of oil as fuel among the New England industries. They are at present using the oil under eight 6-foot boilers, sixteen feet in length. The cost of the fuel Mr. Thomas, the agent, informs us is not less than that of coal, but advantages are found in the ease with which the oil is handled, the saving of help in the fire room and in handling ashes, the uniformity of the furnace temperature, and in the consequent cleanliness and neatness. The power of the boilers is increased some twenty-five per cent, six boilers furnishing, when fired with oil, the same amount of steam as eight fired with coal. The application was made without any radical change in the setting of the boilers, burners being used which spray the oil with steam. This method obviates also the necessity of a chimney other than as a means of conveying off the products of combustion, a sufficient current of air being induced by the action of the burner. The combustion appears to be complete, and the stack particularly tree from smoke.
It is probably by means ot the practical advantages mentioned rather than by any extensive saving upon its actual comparative cost that oil will win the place which it eventually takes as a steam fuel. A pound of oil generates by complete combustion something like 21,000 heat units, against 14,500 for a pound of carbon. As coal is not all carbon, and has to be fired intermittently, it has been found to be possible to evaporate nearly twice as much water with a pound of oil as with a pound of coal, actual tests running as high as 1.75 to 1.80 as much. This makes a gallon of oil, weighing 6.5 pounds, equal to about twelve pounds of coal, and comparable with coal at about $3.75 per long ton, with oil at two cents per gallon.
There appears, therefore, to be but a narrow margin in the actual fuel cost ; and with both coal and oil under complete control, so far as the market is concerned, the difference would not presumably be increased by a growing demand for oil for fuel purposes. In saving upon investment due to the smaller number of boilers and size of stack required, in the uniformity of conditions while the boilers are under steam, and the ease with which the rate of generation is adjusted to the demand, oil offers a sufficiently large inducement to justify fair and complete trials of its efficiency as a fuel for large plants ; and it is only by such practical trials upon a large scale and under “ every-day ” conditions that the question of how far oil can advantageously be made to take the place of coal can be settled.