Binney & Co. v. Clydesdale Chemical Co., 1860

type: Beyond Scotland - Dorset

Trial before the Lord President and Jury, Edinburgh.
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Source date:

Binney & Co. v. Clydesdale Chemical Co.

Selected extracts relating to oil operations in Dorset.

Report of Jury Trial

Tried before the Lord President and Jury, Edinburgh, November 1860.

Evidence for the Prosecution


Clerk to Messrs Russel & Son, Falkirk.

Mr Shand.-

Have you been sending coal to Wareham in Dorsetshire within the last year or two ?

We have sent considerable quantities to Wareham lately.

To Messrs Humphreys and Co. there ?



Manager of Tar Distillery, Manchester

Mr. Gordon:

You know that there are some works at Wareham in Dorsetshire?


They were called the Bituminous Shale Company?


I suppose they advertised their products?

I don't know whether they advertised them or not.

How did you hear of their products?

I cannot tell exactly; but someone told me that they had naphtha to sell

Did you make a purchase?

Yes. When was this?

I think it would be in August 1851.

What did you purchase?

About 2000 gallons of rectified and crude oil.

Was naphtha much in demand at that time?


And was the oil sold to you as a tar-distiller for the purpose of procuring naphtha ?

I bought it for that purpose.

Did you make use of it?



I rectified it, and put the naphtha from it amongst my naphtha from gas-tar.

Did you find that the naphtha so mixed had any peculiarity?

It had a terrible stink.

The Lord President:

The mixed naphtha had?


Neither separately had?

Oh! yes.

Which one?

That from the bituminous shale had a very bad smell

Mr Gordon:

Then it contaminated your own naphtha?

Yes. I have some here if you would like to smell it.

Were there complaints from your customers?

Yes. It spoiled your naphtha, did it?

It did not spoil it, but it made it smell bad, so that our customers complained.

After that, had you occasion to go to Wareham?


Why did you go there ?

Mr Bethell had an offer of the works, and he requested me to go and see the place, and make a report.

What year was this in?

In 1853.

Who did you see at the works?

Mr Baldwin. Is he alive or dead ?

I have heard within a few days that he is dead. What was he?

He was the manager; at least so he represented himself to me.

He was in charge of the works?


Did he show you the shale from which they worked?

Yes; he showed me the whole. I have brought samples of the shale with me.

Did you take specimens with you?


How much did you take With you?-

I had somethmg over one cwt.

Did he give you that?


As the material from which they worked ?


Did he say they were driving a flourishing trade?

No, he said he was very glad to see me, as I had been the only customer they had.

Did you subject the shale to distillation?

Some of it.

Would you describe how you treated it?

I had a small retort, on the same principle as a gas retort, and I charged the retort, and put into it the shale, and hghted my fire under it, and distllled all the products off, beginning at a low red heat - as low as it would begin, and finishing off at a high temperature.

Did you find that the low red-heat produced any results?

It did not begin to work until the retort was getting very sensibly red hot.

This was in the day-time?


How high did you bring it up?

It gave off products till it got up to a considerable heat-somewhat like the heat they use in gasworks.

It gave off liquid products?


Did you bring the heat up gradually?

Yes, of necessity so.

What kind of liquid was produced?

I produced crude tar, something like the tar obtained from gas-works, only the dreadful smell.

Did the smell suggest to you the presence of any kind of matters in it?



Evidently animal matter. I had worked upon bone tar, and it had something similar, but not so bad.

Did Mr Bethell resolve to have nothing to do with the works?

I advised him not.

Do you know whether the works are in operation now?

I don't.

Cross examined by Mr.Young.

Would you try to remember when you first saw paraffine oil - I mean oil containing paraffine?

I never saw oil containing paraffine, to my knowledge, till after the date of Mr Young's patent.

Have you a recollection that you did not see it till after that?

I have a recollection that I did not know it before that.

Is it the name you did not know ? Did you not know the same thing which is now called paraffine oil ?

I cannot tell whether I had ever seen anything like it or not, but I did not know anything of the name of paraffine oil.

Had you seen some Boghead coal distilled when it first came to be known, and when specimens were sent about the country?

I distilled some myself.

When was that ?

I cannot tell now.

It was before the date of Mr Young's patent was it not?

I could not say if it was or was not. I don't recollect.

Was there anybody present when you distilled it?

I don't know, I am sure; I distilled it in my own laboratory. I have distilled it a good many times. I cannot recollect the date

At what heat did you distil it?

I always conducted my expenments In the same way. I commenced with charging my retort cold.

And heated it gradually up?

I brought it up as quick as I could.

The heating was of course gradual?

It must of course have been so.

And you notice in conducting an experiment, I suppose, when the products first begin to come off?

Yes. What did you get from the Boghead when you distilled it?

I got an oil.

And what did you do with the oil?

I only obtained it in small quantities. I daresay it may be in my laboratory yet.

What kind of oil was it?

A light-brown oil.

Just like what is got now by Mr Young?

Just the same, but my object was different.

You say you applied the heat as you always did in your experiments?


And you distilled the Boghead several times?


But whether before or after the patent you cannot say?

I cannot recollect that. Have you seen other people do it?

No, not Boghead, nor any other that I know. I have since.

Who have you seen do it?

I saw a friend of mine do it in Shropshire.

Who is that?

Mr Fisher.

The Lord President.

But you had not seen it at the time you made the experiments?


Mr Young.

Was it Mr Jesse Fisher?


What is he?

He is a manufacturing chemist. He has small chemical works at Madeley, in Shropshire.

Did he distil it in the same way?

Question objected to.

Was it by way of experiment, or in his trade as a manufacturer, that Mr Fisher was trying this coal?-

By way of experiment.

How did he distil it?

In a retort. Just as you had done yourself?


The Lord President.

Was it in a glass retort?

In an Iron retort.

Mr. Young.

Putting it in cold?

I forget how it was.

Was it with the same result?

Well, I never examined it, to my knowledge. I have no recollection of examining the products from it.

Did what you saw appear to be the same?

Well, I would not say so now.

Your memory don't serve you?

No; I could not say so.

But you cannot recollect the date?

No. It was after the Great Exhibition, I think,- in fact, I am sure.

It would be some time during or after 1851. Just think a little further. Did you not see it before?

I cannot recollect that I did. I mean, see Mr Fisher before experiment on this coal?

I cannot recollect that I did see him, and I feel a great certainty that I did not see him.

The naphtha which you make is used for burning in ]amps?


These (showing J) are the specimens of Kimmeridge shale which you have brought with you?


Are these fair specimens?

They were given me by the manager. I suppose he would not take the worst.

Mr Gordon.

Have you seen naphtha which was produced from Mr Young's process?

No, I never did.

19. MR WILLIAM C. HOMERSHAM, Engineer, London.

Mr Clark.

You are an engineer in London?

I am.

Do you remember of going down to Weymouth, in Dorsetshire, in the autumn of 1849 ?

I do.

How long did you remain there?

Till the summer of 1850- till the end of July.

What was your object in going there?

To finish the works begun by Mr Braithwaite for the distillation of bituminous shale.

Were they completed?

They were not when I went.

Were they completed after you went ?

As far as the distillation of the shale went.

You completed them so far as to enable you to distil some shale ?


What sort of shale was it that you distilled?

The bituminous shale from Kimmeridge.

How much did you distil altogether?

About 100 tons.

How much shale had you in the works when you went there?

I found 2000.

Which was intended for distillation?


And all you distilled was about 100 ton

We did.

What was the amount of crude oil that you got per ton?

About six gallons per ton of shale.

Did you manage to sell it ?

We never sold any.

Did you ever try it ?

We advertised it.

And could not sell it ?

We did not sell it.

Had it a bad smell?

It had.

How did you distil the shale?

From the size of the retorts I had, it was necessary to get the retort up to a very high heat; it was a very considerable heat.

And you distilled it at a very high heat ?

I did.

And did the works continue in operation?

They did not. When did you begin to distil ?

About the latter end of January, or the beginning of February 1850.

When did you shut shop?

In bout July of the same year.

And the works were not reopened?

They have not been reopened.

Cross examined by Mr.Young.

By distilling this shale as you distilled it, you got what you have described to us as a crude oil?


You are not a chemist ?

I am not.

Did you ascertain whether it floated in water or sank ?

The major part tloated in water; some small parts sank to the bottom.

What kind of thing sank to the bottom ?

Some small portion sank to the bottom.

But the bulk of the oil floated ?


What was made from that oil?

Nothing, so far as I can say.

You never purified it?


Nor extracted paraffine from it ?


When did you begin?

We started the works in January 1850.

When did you stop?

About June or July 1850.

(Showing No. 83). That advertisement was inserted while you were manager?

It was. . . . (Reads advertisement).

That advertisement was inserted in reference to the product of your distillation?

It was.

You had never treated the crude oil which you obtained, so as to get from it those other products?

I had not.

How Iong had these works been in existence before you went ?

Not at all.

They were not finished.

They had not begun?


The gentleman you went to was Mr Braithwaite?


The Lord President

Did the works belong to him?

To his trustees.

Mr Young.

He was bankrupt?


He had become bankrupt?


Was that from erecting these works?


At the time he was erecting these works?


I believe he had obtained an interest in Du Buisson's patent ?

He had.

As a patentee?

Yes. And the works had been only so far advanced in January 1850, as to enable you to begin them ?


Had you a chemist engaged to assist you?

We had not.

Did you insert the advertisement which I have read?

I did.

From what was it prepared?

From Du Buisson's specification, and a report by Mr Cooper. (Showing No. 74).

That is Mr Cooper's report ?


You yourself are an engineer, and not a chemist ; but your intention was to distil this Kimmeridge shale, which was the shale you operated on, so as to obtain these products?

So as to obtain the liquid bitumen contained in it. And you did obtain the liquid bitumen which is the thing you call the crude oil?


But that crude oil was not chemically dealt with afterwards?

Not by me.

Did you send a further portion of that crude oil which you obtained, to anybody?

To several parties.

For analysis?

Not exactly for analysis, but to see whether they would buy.

Did you send it to anybody for analysis?

Not to several people. It was sent to one gentleman. I did not send it direct but I believe it was sent.

To whom?

To Mr Dugald Campbell.

He is a chemist in London?

He is.

When was this?

I should say in 1852, but I cannot remember the time exactly.

It was a portion of the oil which was made by you in 1850 which was sent, you think, in 1852?

Yes, by my directions. I think it was 1852.

There was no oil made there at all after June 1850?


The advertisement was sent to various publications, and repeated?

In two or three.

Mr Clark.

And they brought no result?

No result.

You said that the bulk floated in water. Did a considerable portion of it sink when the liquid cooled?

It mixed with the water when it was cold. There was a considerable difficulty in separating it when it was cold.

Can you tell me the specific gravity of the crude oil ?

I cannot.

Did it just float?

It was according to the temperature it was at. If it was 90° it would float; but when it got down to about 50° or 60°, there was a great deal of difficulty,-in fact there was a great deal of difficulty in separating them.

Amongst other products which you advertised as the result of your distillation, there was one which my friend Mr Young did not mention - tar ?

Tar is included in the advertisement.

Did you know of yourself that it contained all these excellent things?

I did not.

And though a good many samples of the oil were sent out, none of its excellences were discovered?

I presume not.

What Mr Cooper reported on was the Kimmeridge bituminous schist?

It was so represented to me.

In fact, the report says so. . . . . I think he recommended a distillation as for gas, did he not. He says, "I am decidedly of opinion that the method'- (Reads to)-' at a great loss.' Was the oil you sent to Mr Campbell for analysis part of the oil made out of the 100 tons?

lt was.

You are sure of that?


Was there no other shale distilled except that 100 tons?

Yes, there would be in the proportion of 10 tons to the 100 of a shale obtained near Weymouth.

Two different shales were obtained?


And there were only 90 tons of that shale which you found 2000 tons of at the works?

Yes, and 10 tons of a shale obtained about two miles from Weymouth.

Were they separately distilled?

They were separately distilled, but the products were mixed. They went into the same reciever.

The Lord President.

When you said 100 tons did you mean 100 in all ?

Yes, about 100 tons.

And about 10 tons of that was from Weymouth shale?

Yes; rather under, but about 10 tons.

Mr Young.

Mr Cooper is dead?

I believe so.

The Lord President.

Did you abandon the work because it did not succeed?

Because we could not find a sale for the articles.

It failed of success and was abandoned?

The works are not sold at the present time.

But the manufacture was abandoned by you?

The manufacture is in abeyance up to the present time. The works still remain the property of Mr Braithwaite's trustees.


What was the stoppage of the work owing to?

Because we could not sell the articles was the primary cause.

Was there not some bankruptcy in the matter?

We only had the trustees to find the money, and they would not find the money because they did not sell the article.

Evidence for the Defender


Mr Young.

You are a Consulting and Analytical chemist to the Hospital of Consumption in London?

I am.

You were formerly demonstrator and lecturer on chemistry in University College, London?

I was.

And you are in busines generally as an analytical chemist?

I am.

Have you given much attention to the subject of the distillation of coal?

I have

And had much experience therein?

I consider I have.

When did it become known to chemists in general that paraftine was a product of the distillation of coal - I mean, generally, about how long ago?

My knowledge of paraffine extends for a period of, I should say, about sixteen years .

Was it well known so long ago as that, that it was a product of the distillation of coal?

It was .

When did you yourself obtain it by distilling coal?

In 1847, I was shown by Mr. John Thomas Cooper, paraffine oil, lubricating oil from paraffine, and paraffine itself. Toward the end of 1847, Mr Cooper showed me the burning oil of paraffine, as it is called, the lubricating oil containing paraftine, and a thick oil in which there were crystals of parafline apparent to the eye, which he called the thick oil of paraftine.

Who was Mr Cooper?

Mr Cooper wa a very well-known consulting chemi t in London.

Is he now dead?

He is dead about four year ago.

The question which I put to you was , when you yourself had obtained paraffine by distilling coal?

I really do not know when I did. It was certainly not before 1850. I obtained it by following Du Buisson's patent before that. . .

Obtained it from what ?

From what is known as the Kimmerige shale.

The Lord President

You did not obtain from distillation of coal until 1850?

Till 1850.

You had it from distillation of shale when?

About the year 1847.

Mr Cooper showed me Du Buisson's patent when he showed me the materials that he had obtained from it, and I experimented upon it all according to Du Buisson's patent?


Mr Young.

Were Mr Cooper anl you very much together?

Very much together.

We were encouraged by one of the branches of the Government in a series of experiment for them, that lasted for many months.

At about that time?

About that time, and he was sometime a week or two in my laboratory, and I was sometime a week or two in his laboratory, just as the work suited us best.

Would you tell us what these substances were which he showed you in 1847?

First of all he showed me a light oil of a paleish lemon colour, with a slight odour,which all these oils, whether obtained from coals or shales, possess. This oil we afterwards burned; in fact, he put the oil into one of his lamps, which he, in fact, he put the oil into one of his lamps, which he used for burning - a camphine lamp, such as is now called a paraffine lamp,, and we dined by that light.

That was in 1847?


The secretary of the company was asked to meet me.

Of what company?

The company at Wareham - a Mr Murdoch.

The lamp was then called a camphine lamp?


And that it just the same thing as is called a paraffine lamp?

What else did he show you?

The thick oil, which he said contained paraffine, and which I have no doubt it did and he said it waxy oil they were using for lubricating purpose : or to use for lubncatma purposes. He also showed me a substance much more viscid and thick, and in which I could observe flakes of paraffine.

And he told you that these had been produced from the Kimmeridge shale?

He told me that they had been produced from theKimmeridge shale, and he gave me specimens of that shale at the time. He showed me his report to the company

Was it printed?

No; it was a written report, signed by himelf.

And did you experiment upon the specimens which he gave you?

I did.


About that time. There was some difliculty in purifying these oils, and he asked me if I could assist him in the mode of purification.

Did you give him some suggestions about it?

I did. I ascertained from him how he had distilled the shale.

You distilled some yourself ?

I did.

How did you distil it ?

I ascertained from Mr Cooper that they had not used steam in their retort , as described by Du Buisson, and l distilled it both with steam and without steam. I had an iron vessel made, and a pipe down into the bottom of the vessel, which was perforated with holes and through which I blew the steam

Was this upon a small scale?

My apparatus is about the size of the smallest cake of paraftine - perhaps a little larger.

You mean the retort into which you put your mineral?

Yes; into which I put my shale, and into which I drove my steam.

The Lord President.

This was in your laboratory?

Yes and I got the very same products as were shown to me by Mr Cooper, but I think of a better nature.

Mr Young

Do you mean of a superior quality?


Superior in what respect?

They were less odorous and more easily purified.

You got an oil which contained paraffine?

I did.

In notable quantity?


Did you purify that oil?

I did.

And extracted paraffine from it ?

Yes; by sulphuric acid and soda, and distillation.

\Vas a specimen of the oil which was made at Braithwaite's· works sent to you for analysis?

It was.

Do you remember when?

In December 1853.

You did analyse it ?


What did you find ?

I found paraffine and paraffine oil. I made a report in the beginning of 1854, of which report I have got a know the oil which is obtained both by Binney and Co., and by the Clydesdale Chemical Company?

I do.

I mean the crude product of the first distillation of Boghead coal ?


Was the oil which was sent to you from Braithwaite's works the same as that?

It was as near as possible the same. I have got samples of the crude oil with me which I got at that time.

I believe you have made a chemical analysis of both, and will be able to give us the particulars?

Yes. But at present you say the one was as near as possible the same as the other ?

Yes; only the Kimmeridge shale had rather more smell - that 1853 sample.

The Lord President.

Braithwaite's oil?-Yes

Mr. Young

But that was an oil containing paraftine just as much as Mr Young's is?

It was an oil containing paraffine and what is called paraffine oil.

Did you purify it ?

I did.

And what was the result of your purification

I separated the oils and the paraffine itself as well,as Du Buisson describes three oils. I took the crude oil, and I obtained a burning oil, a light oil, and also a second oil, which would likewise do for burning - a medium oil, as described by Du Buisson. Then I obtained a third oil - a lubricating oil; and I obtained paraffine itself.


You know Du Buisson's patent?

I do.

Does it occur to you that there is anything new in it?

There appeared to me at the time to be something new in the apparatus.

Did it teach you anything you never knew before?

I never had applied steam into the retorts before. I believe Dn Buisson's is for the apparatus.

Is there nothing else new in it ?

I think not.

He has a definition of bituminous shale, I believe, in that patent?

He has

Do you agree with it ?

I think it Is generally correct.

Does it describe accurately the Kimmendge shale, Bituminous schistus consists of - ( Reads to) - ' mass of schistus.' Do you think that is a correct definition of it?

The specimens of Kimmeridge schitus that I have examined have not exactly corresponded with this, but still they approximate

Did you not find in the specimens evident trace of ammal matter?

No smell?

They don't smell per se. Of course, if you distil them they smell the same as a coal.

Am I to understand that there was no peculiar smell in the Kimmeridge oil?

There is a smell in the oil when it is distilled.

A very strong smell?

A strong smell.

But you don't think that is caused by animal matter?

I don't think it is.

You never investigated the subject for the purpose of ascertaining it?


And your opinion is that there was none ?

It may have originally been there, but it is converted ; it is no longrer existing there.

Have you any doubt that that smell arises from the prescence of animal matter?

I have all the doubt in the world about it. It does not arise from any animal matter. There is no animal matter in the thing. It may have been originally formed from the decomposition of animal matter, as coal is formed from the decomposition of plants.

You think it is formed from the decomposition of plants, and not from the decompo ition of animal matter ?

I think there is a mixture of the two, but there is no animal matter in the schist.

Then it is not your opinion that shale of that description and in that formation is generally the result of the decomposition of animal matter?

It is a mixture of the two.

Then there is a mixture of animal matter in it'?

There is no animal matter existing per se in it. The sulphur in the schist may arise from the albumen of plant , as it does in the same way from the albumen of plant in coal .

I have read the description which Du Buisson moves of the formatlon of schist . Is it your opinion that the Kimmeridge schist has been, or has not been formed in that way?

I think Kimmeridge schist has been formed in that way, although the description that he gives of it does not answer exactly to the Kimmeridge.

You began these researches of yours about 1847. Were you connected with the Wareham or Weymouth affair?

I was not. Were you the consulting chemist employed by them?

I was not.

By neither of them?

By neither of them.

I don't think you gave me the results of your analysis of the Kimmeridge shale in 1847?

The results were, that I obtained crude oil, and that I rectified it and purified it by distillation with sulphuric acid and soda, and I produced from it the burning oils described by Du Buisson.

Can you give me anything like the amounts?

No; I have not got the amounts. My object was to obtain an oil with as little smell as possible.

And you succeeded in doing so?

I succeeded tolerably well in doing so.

You cannot tell me just now the proportional amount of the crude oil that that analysis disclosed?

I cannot tell you the quantities.

You were very intimate with Mr Cooper?

I was.

(Shown No. 74.) That is a report made in 1847 by Mr Cooper to the Chemical Oil and Spirit Company?

To Thomas .Murdoch, the secretary of the Chemical Oil and Spirit Company.

Were you aware of the researches that were going on by:Mr Cooper into this Kimmeridge shale?

He showed me a report. The report bears, that on the morning of the 3d inst., the apparatus was charged with 80 lb. weight of schist, and there was another charge of 80 lb. weight, making in all 160 lb, and the result obtained from that was 17 lb. of oil?

It weighed about 17 lb.

That was something under 10 per cent?

I think so.

And the residuum was how much?


You will see on page 66 what the residuum consisted of. There was carbon 20, imbibed water 1.30, silica 46.07, alumina 15.08, lime 2.93, phosphate of lime 5.21, peroxide of iron 6.84, perphosphate of iron 1.91, a trace of sulphate of lime, and loss .66 ?


Be kind enough to tell me again tho result of your last analysis of the Kimmeridge shale, which you got from Mr Carlile. First, how much was there that you made the experiment with?

40 or 50 lbs. weight I should think. That was sent to me, and I have experimented on it all with the exception of this little bit (Showing).

Instead of 10 per cent, how much did you get as your result in oil ?

We got 23.4 per cent - that was of rectified oil.

But I want to know the crude oil?

The tar, as we call it, 38.7.

So that while Mr Cooper only got 10 per cent of crude oil, you got 38 per cent?

We got 38.7 per cent. of tar. I do not call it oil.

But Mr Cooper called it oil ?

Yes. It means the same as he had.

So that the difference between your experiment and Mr Cooper's is the difference between 10 per cent and 38 per cent?

It is.

And your result is very nearly four times as great as his?


Mr Cooper was reporting to the company, for their information in the intended trade which they meant to begin?


The Lord President.

What proportion did yours bear to the 17 lbs. ?

Nearly four times as much.

The Lord Advocate.

You were taken into consultation in 1847. Did you think the thing was likely to be profitable?

My object in making these experiments was for the purpose of seeing if I could produce a less smelling oil than was done; and I got really a practical quantity of oil from what I distilled then. The schist varies very much in its nature. The residuum in Mr Cooper's case was 120 lb. out of 160, which is very great, and in ours it was only 14 in 100, which shows that it was very variable.

The Lord President.

That is, the quality of the shale varies?

Very much. The shale only contained 24 per cent of ash, whereas that would contain about 60 per cent, or, at least 50.

The Lord Advocate.

ln your opinion at that time, from examination of the coal, did you think that it was a project worth pursuing?

I did.

You thought it would be profitable?

I thought so

At that time you were aware that it would take 160 lb. of shale to give 17 lb. of crude oil?

I cannot say that exactly.

But you knew of the report ?

Yes; but I could not speak precisely to figures. I knew it produced small quantities.

And yet you thought it would be profitable?

I did.

The Lord President.

You thought the manufacture was worth pursuing, notwithstanding Mr Cooper's results?

I did.

The Lord Advocate.

And, of course, if instead of Cooper's results you had got your own results- I mean 38 per cent, you would be quite clear about that ?

I certainly think I should.

The Lord President.

If 38 per cent was the general result, you would be clear as to the profit?

Much clearer.

The Lord Advocate.

And you still hold the same opinion?

I do.

The Company did not succeed then. To what do you ascribe their failure?

I understand the gentleman became bankrupt ; his affairs became embarrassed; he was connected with several railway speculations.

It found a ready market, I presume, for the oil it produced?

I cannot say as to that.