THE FLASH-POINT OF PETROLEUM.
AT a recent meeting of the English petroleum committee, Lord Kelvin was the principal witness. He stated that he had experimented with petroleum ever since its introduction into that country, and the result of his tests was to convince him that for safety, the flash-point of oil should be raised to 120 degrees Fahr. If this were adopted lamp accidents would be practically obliterated. He thought it would be hopeless to attempt to put any legislative restrictions on the manufacture or sale of lamps. While attaching considerable imjiortance to being able to see the quantity of oil in a lamp, the advantage of a glass reservoir was more than counterbalanced by the risk of breakage. On the whole, his ideal would be an aluminum reservoir with the Kuntgeti rays to see into it. Failing a test of 120 degrees, one of too degrees would be an enormous improvement on 73 degrees.
Mr. J. Fyfe, managing director of Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, stated that he represented the Scottish Mineral Oil Association, a body composed of ten companies, which produced last year 18,000,000 gallons of oil, and employed9,000 men. He attributed the freedom from lamp accidents in Scotland to the high flash-point (over 105 degrees Fahr.) voluntarily adopted by the Scottish companies. He thought legislation to prevent the manufacture of inferior and fragile lamps alone was desirable.
Mr. J. T. Ueilby, F. 1. C., representing the Scottish railway companies, said he had een assured that no accidents by fire had ever taken place from carrying oil barrels along with other goods. This tact they attributed to the high flash point of the oil carried. If a general traftiein petroleum flashing between 73 degiees and too degress were to arise, the companies would becompelled lo consider the necessity for restrictions as to carrying the oil such as did not at present exist. As an expert in oils, he was of opinion that the flash-point of petroleum could be raised to too degrees at a cost of not more than half a cent a gallon.
Mr. f. W. Bernard Wright, who came at the request of the Birmingham lamp manufacturers, said that.as a manufacturer, his experience was tha» accidents were due to gtoss carelessness and ignorance on the part of the users of lamps. With regard to the lamp, he admitted that, with strong reservoirs, the danger would be lessened, and,as to the oil, the minimum ought to be 100 degrees Fahr. close test. He thought a license should be necessary for all persons dealing in the sale of lamps. He w’ould also advise that official information should be issued to the public as to the character of petroleum.
Mr. R. V. Kvercd (Evered & Co., Limited, London) was of opinion that there was no necessity lor legislation if only the lamps were properly used. He agreed that glass reservoirs should be stronger to minimize the danger from lamps being knocked over.
Mr. Shaw, a Walsall lamp manufacturer, thought that recklessness in use. badly fitting wicks, and the firing of burners caused the majority of accidents, which legislation would not prevent. He preferred glass reservoirs for the oil, and desired that the flash-point should be raised toioodegrees Fahr.
Mr. D. Cars (Venus Lamp Works, Iloxton), in his examin ation, said he did not think the English people were more careless than the German; but the latter used a better burner —the round wick burner—in their lamp.
Mr. F. Allen (Dietz, Davis & Co., lamp manufacturers) traversed statements advanced in the name of the London county council as to the large and increasing number of deaths caused by lamp accidents, lie contended that the number had not increased either in proportion to the lamps in use or to the deaths caused by fire from other causes. He had never known an accident caused bv bad construction. Even in the cheapest lamps the burner was as scientifically constructed, although of weaker material, as in the most expensive lamps. When an accident happened, it might be because the wick was not of the proper size for the tube, or the lamp was foul. Prohibiting the use of glass reservoirs would destroy the export trade in lamps.
Dr. Stevenson Macadam,professor of chemistry in Edinburgh, expressed a strong opinion that no oil could be considered safe below 100 degrees Fahr. close test. He would not prohibit the sale of lower flash oil, but would insist upon it being so labeled. By abstracting 10 per cent.of the spirit from American oil it could be brought up to 100 per cent.without any difficulty. Witness preferred a strong glass reservoir to one of metal for oil lamps, as it did not raise the temperature so much.
Professor Dewar (University of London) produced statistics relative to the consumption of petroleum oil in Great Britain. In 1874 the quantity was only 640 gallons per 1,000 of population. By 1884 it had risen lo 1,084 gallons, and by 1894 to 3,482 gallons per 1,000. In 1895, 2.774,000 barrels of American and, 534,000 barrels of Russian oil were imported. It seemed to him, he said, that from figures he had obtained the increase in accidents did no more than follow in close ratio the increased consumption. The increased use was apparently among the lower classes, who were notoriously careless and ignorant. He calculated that there were 10,000.000 lamps on the average in use every night in the United Kingdom. From his experiments he would Say that, if Parliament undertook legislation that would convey to the public that the oil could be safely used in the present lamps, they would require to fix a flash-point of 212 degrees. His experiments showed that a higher temperature was developed in lamps in which Scottish oil svas burned than with American oil with the lower flash-point. Scottish oil with no degrees flash point was, he maintained, more liable than the ordinary American oil of 75 degrees to produce explosive conditions in lamps. In point of construction he preferred metal lo glass lamps, simply because they were less liable to break. As to the flash-point, it was 13 degrees above the mean summer temperature of the British Isles, and had there been any material blunder in fixing the 75 degrees it would have been discovered long ago. With ordinary care the present flash-point was sufficiently high. The heating of the oil was not so material as the spilling of it, and legislation should, therefore, be in the direction of improved lamps.
Sir Frederick Abel,who was also examined upon the advisabilityof raising the flash-point of oil, expressed the opinion that the present flash-point of 73 degrees was sufficient, and he saw no necessity for raising it. It was true that a higher flashpoint was maintained in barracks; but the sole object of that was to try and prevent accidents which might arise,owing to carelessness of the men. This he had advocated; but in the case of a private house there were not a large number of men who from carelessness might cause accidents. He was quite convinced that 73 degrees was a perfectly safe flash point.