DONALD S. FRASER – "REFINERIES NEAR HAMBURG"
Donald S. Fraser. As you all know, Hamburg was the main refining center for petroleum in Germany. Before the war the refineries operated largely on imported or topped crude from Mexico and Venezuela and made special light cuts, lubes, wax, grease, and asphalt, but after the war shut off the crude imports, the refineries turned to indigenous crudes of mixed bases and asphaltic types from Reitbrook, Heide, Neinhagen and Austrian fields. These crudes were topped and the residuals worked up into a similar series of products to those produced pre-war. The gasoline and gas oil were sent to the other refineries in Germany for manufacturing finished fuels in much the same manner as we did here in this country during the war fro producing military gasoline.
Broadly speading, the refineries in the Hamburg area were the conventional type including crude distillate, lube oil, acid treating, and de-waxing. One refinery also had a duo-sol solvent extraction plant and there was a little synthetic oil manufactured, but other than that the refineries had no new developments or processes so there is really not much to say about them. The refineries included Rhenania Ossag’s 450,000 ton per year at Harburg, 120,000 ton per year lube plant at Grasbrook and 50,000 ton per year plant at Wilhemsburg, Deutsche Vacuum’s 30,000 ton per year Schulau plant, Erdolwerke’s plant at Heide, Ostermoor, and Ebano Asphalt-Werke’s 360,000 ton per year plant at Harburg. Bremen is sufficiently near Hamburg to be included in this brief resume and is the location of Deutsche Vacuum’s 120,000 ton per year Oselbehausen refinery.
Rhenania Ossag’s refineries were an integrated unit, the Harburg plant manufacturing gasoline, lube base stock, and asphalt, with the gasoline and light distillates going to Wilhemsburg for manufacturing light oils and special solvents, and the lube stock being further processed at Grasbrook into finished oils. One feature perhaps worth mentioning was the great plant at the latter refinery where experimental work was being done on silica-jel oil mixtures for grease substitutes.
Lubricants and greases were manufactured also at Schulau, and at Bremen where the duo-sol raffinate was dewaxed with benzol-acetone solvent for manufacturing lubricating oil. Rhenania Ossag’s Harburg refinery contained a synthetic lubricating oil plant employing wax cracking and aluminum chloride catalysts to polymerize the cracked material into lubricating oil products. Not much information of interest was gained as the plant operated only a short time before being dismantled and moved to Osterode for erection underground. The other Hamburg refineries were conventional fuel type, making gasoline, gas oil, fuel oil, and at the Ebano, asphalt.
The Heide plant possessed a conventional crude distillation unit having no special interest, but included a unit consisting of a kiln used to recover oil from oil-chalk mines nearby. Mine cars filled with the chalk passed through the kiln, intermittently stopping in various sections that could be made gas tight by closing gate valves on either side of the car spotted over a hot gas duct. The hot gases were conducted through the chalk in the car causing the oil to distill from the chalk. The section in the kiln were made progressively hotter to recover the heavier oil components from the chalk. A more recent design comprised a Herreshof type furnace for the same purpose. These results are mentioned merely as a matter of academic interest.
A point of possible interest is the use of stainless steel instead of a homogeneous lead lining (in the Harburg refineries) for protection against sulphur dioxide corrosion. It was stated that stainless still gave very good service and would be selected for similar conditions in the future. Descriptions of the types of steel used are included in technical documents obtained from Rhenania Ossag and microfilmed.
Little research activity of any account was performed in the Hamburg area. Some information in the way of research work was found in Hamburg that came out of Amsterdam, but it remains a parliamentary question whether or not the Dutch Shell actively engaged in research and development for the Germans during the occupation of the Netherlands. The laboratories in Hamburg, which were dispersed from the refinery locations because of bombings, did normal routine testing only and in addition a little synthetic oil study. Rhenania Ossag had a testing laboratory at Hitzacher where also was located a government (WIFO) blending station for petroleum fuels. No pertinent information was gathered here or at the Intava laboratory at Bad Oldesloe, because of lack of or distruction of records, although some data were obtained on motor fuel testing at the latter.
The Rhenania Ossag refinery at Harburg was pretty badly damaged during the last month of the war, and at the time of our visit, shortly after VE day, the management was hoping to get sufficient repairs made to place the refinery back in operation on a limited scale. The plant looked more like a junk yard than an oil refinery however, and one fractionating tower looked like the leaning Tower of Piza. In the words of a British member of our party the refinery units appeared to be "slightly disturbed."
An observation of interest was the large number of electrically driven winches in places around the plant for re-erection of displaced equipment resulting from bombings. The cable from the drum of one winch was wound down around several corners and up and down through pulleys, finally disappearing down a hole into which apparently some equipment had fallen. In such manner emergency repairs were made after a bombing in order to start up the refinery, literally on a shoestring, with the least possible delay so as to gain a little production before demolition reoccurred. The Germans risked or didn’t bother about safety precautions, and the parts of a unit were not tested before normal operations were resumed, so desperate was their need for petroleum products.
I think this is all I can say in a general way about the Hamburg refineries. The reports were completely written last July and I assume will be distributed eventually.
W. G. Schroeder. Thank you, is there any discussion?
H. Schindler. One question I would like to ask, there was a pretty complete refinery in the port area, operated by a company called Eurotank. I’ve never heard about that. Is the company knocked out or was the plant never seen?
F. S. Fraser. What was the name?
H. Schindler. Eurotank. From my idea, it was one of the best Germans had in that area. There were very complete cracking facilities, more or less designed according to the lines we are used to, rather than the bailing wire principles which Mr. Fraser mentioned.
D. S. Fraser. The bailing wire principle was used only during the latter part of the war when frequent bombings prevented permanent repairs.
J. G. Allen. I might have a few comments here. Dr. Faragher and I were in Hamburg the first two weeks in October with two members of the British team, and specifically on your question, we talked to some of the Eurotank people. Their cracking plant, which was a Winkler Coke Unit, was dismantled very early in the war and they had hidden the pieces in some nearby town. They were considering bringing the equipment back, since evidently most of the pieces were still intact and undamaged. All they had at the plant was a crude topping unit which had been put back into operation at the time of our visit. They were greatly handicapped in operating because of the extensive distruction of tankage. They estimated that something like 15% of their total tankage was not worth repairing and they were operating on a shoestring as far as tankage was concerned.
The overall picture of crude oil refining in the Hamburg area at present is that the Britich Oil Control had commissioned some German engineers to make an estimate of what could be done to bring the present available crude in Germany proper, which is centered in the Hamburg-Hanover area. The committee under the direction of Mr. Engel of the German-Socony Company had prepared a very comprehensive report on refining which I believe stated that 60,000 tons of crude per month were available which was about 1/3 of the maximum crude run in Germany during the war. This quantity of crude is all in the Hamburg-Hanover and Muisberg area.
The plan worked up was to recondition refineries to run this crude and make certain specified minimum number of products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and lubricating oil for German civilian use in the British, American, and I believe the French occupied zones. The distribution system that the Germans had set up during the war was to be used for distributing these products to civilians. The Eurotank plant at Hamburg was originally in the scheme to be partially rebuilt, but later estimated which cut down on the requirements of lubricating oil threw the plant completely out of the picture and the main work, as they were lining it up, was to get two principal plants running, one at Bremen and the other at Muisberg just outside of Hanover.
The complete report which was very well organized and written is one of the best German reports we have seen and is one of the latest microfilms. I think a pretty complete picture, although it is not authoritative, was given in this report to the North German Oil Control which is under the British Military Authorities, and all appearances were that, in general, they were following the recommendations slowly. The first step was to get a few crude topping units in operation and some are now running to be followed by the lube oil facilities at Bremen and Hamburg. Some of the other plants in addition to Eurotank were being used temporarily for crude topping facilities, but it was a question whether they would continue running when the whole plan was integrated. The total refineries capacity amounts to something like fifteen to twenty thousand barrels of crude oil per day, which to us is a pretty small amount.
W. C. Schroeder. Thank you. Is there any other discussion, or questions? If not I think we’ll move on to the next paper, "Oxidation of Methane" by Dr. E. B. Peck.