Flintshire Oil & Cannel Co. - appeal to House of Lords, 1866

type: Beyond Scotland - Wales

Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply and Sanitary Improvement
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HOUSE OF LORDS - Monday, 12th March 1866.

(Before the Marquis of BATH (Chairman), Earl CAWDOR, Viscount LIPFORD, Earl PORTARLINGTON and Lord OVERSTONE)

Selected extracts of an unsuccessful appeal to the House of Lords by the Flintshire Oil and Cannel Co. Ltd seeking powers to re-construct the company and supply gas to the city of Chester. These provide a detailed description of the company's activities at that time.


Mr DENISON Q.C., Mr MEREWETHER Q.C., and Mr DAVISON Q.C., appeared for the promoters,and Mr. BURKE Q.C. And Mr HORACE LLOYD Q.C. appeared for Chester United Gas Company petitioners against the bill.

The object of the bill was to incorporate the Flintshire Oil and Canmel Company to make maintain and use paraffin light works and to supply with paraffin light the city of Chester and places near thereto. The company was formed under the Limited Liability Act on the 8th of August 1861 with a capital of £550,000 to acquire and carry on some extensive oil distilling works which were in operation at Saltney and having in the course of their trade found that a valuable residuum called paraffin light which is now wasted, could be used with profit to the company and to the advantage of the public they now sought for the requisite parliamentary powers to incorporate the company, an supply the same for public and private lighting in the city of Chester.

Mr. George Haworth, examined by Mr MEREWETHER

I am a coal proprietor and have been a director of the Flintshire Oil and Cannel Company since its commencement in 1864 The capital of that company is £550,000 divided into 1000 shares of 50 each. Of that capital 4619 shares have been issued upon which £33 each have been paid. We have very extensive works at Saltney for the purpose of distilling the oil from the curly cannel Between £60,000 and £70,000 have been laid out upon those works The oil is partly distilled at Leeswood and partly at Saltney and is refined at Saltney. Shale is a component part of the material from which the oil is distilled. The shale is a geological formation which is common both to North and South Wales. There is a coal and cannel company at Leeswood. We have a contract with them under which they are bound to supply us with 100 tons of coal per day during the full term of the company's leases which is for 22 years Their leases comprise about 250 acres of coal of which about 200 acres are cannel. Our own freehold is 90 acres which at our present rate of consumption would last us from 27 to 30 years so that we see our way to having plenty of material for making our paraffin oil. There are also great quantities of cannel adjacent to us.

Cross examined by Mr HORACE LLOYD: Our original capital was 500,000 We raised the 50,000 additional within the last three months by resolution of the last annual meeting. That is preference capital. I believe we have power under our Articles of Association to increase the capital from time to time to any amount we please and by resolution of an extraordinary meeting to extend our operations to many other matters to sell our business or to dissolve and wind up the concern. I cannot say to what extent we may borrow not having the Articles before me, but I think the borrowing power is limited to £250,000. The meeting that was held last Saturday was a directors' meeting convened by notice. The shareholders gave us full power at their meeting in December to make an application to Parliament for the bill which now lies on their Lordship's table. It is now proposed to dissolve the company and reconstitute it in a new form. The shareholders gave us authority at a special general meeting held in January to act as we thought proper in the matter.

The works had been carried on for two or three years by private proprietors before the company acquired them who sold them to the company The purchase money was about £160,000 in cash; there were no shares given whatever. We have carried on operations of the same nature and have extended the works. In making the oil, we necessarily make what we call the paraffin light which is a particular kind of gas. The same thing happened to the previous proprietors and the fact that this gas was inflammable and illuminating was known by them. There is nothing said about it in the Articles of Association but the Works were on a smaller scale when we first took them. I have seen the operations of the company and taken an interest in them I have not paid much attention to the experiments on the gas The resolution which was passed at the general meeting was that which is referred to in the preamble of the bill vim That on the recommendation of the directors it shall henceforth be part of the business of the company to make the light called paraffin light as well as oil and paraffin and to make maintain and use works for the purpose and to supply paraffin light for public and private lighting. That special Act of Parliament for authorizing the company to supply the city of Chester and places in the neighbourhood thereof with paraffin light and for conferring on the company all proper powers and authorities for the purpose shall be applied for. I reside in Chester, a little outside the city, this is the bill which was submitted to and approved at the meeting of the 11th of January. Part of the £50,000 preference stock is paid up the whole of it is not taken up. We have not raised the whole of the original 500,000. We did not propose to raise the preference stock because we could not get the original capital out. We have as much subscribed for as we want - £250,000. We want to raise £50,000 in preference stock instead of calling up more of the original shares.

Mr. Robert Rumney, examined by Mr MEREWETHER

I am a manufacturing chemist residing at Manchester. I am a member of the Manchester Corporation and chairman of one of the committees for managing the supply of gas to that city. The gas works there are on a very large scale. As a chemist and a member of the corporation I have gone into the question of the plant, supply of machinery and so on, Since the commencement of this company I have been a director and have applied my attention to the proceedings of the company. The main business for which we originally subscribed our capital was that of extracting illuminating and lubricating oils from cannel. The manager will tell you exactly the amount of oil we are at present distilling. After the oil is extracted from the materials used it is distilled and a portion of it the lighter portion is refined and sold for illuminating purposes and the heavier portions for lubricating purposes. The process of distillation is to subject the cannel to a very low temperature the shale or cannel is broken up and put into retorts open at one end which when the retort is filled, is closed up excluding all air. The products are carried out at the other end into pipes called condensers The liquid products fall into tanks and the incondensable gases which we contemplate by this appeal to Parliament to utilize, are now wasted. We have 200 or burners on the works but they consume but a very small quantity with the total amount of gas produced. It illuminates the country for a dozen miles but hitherto it has not been available commercially. We do not attempt to purify the gas consumed at the works at all; we turn it into a gasholder and take it from there without any purification; we have so much of it that it is not worth our while to deal with it. It is very easily purified; more so than ordinary gas. Its impurity being almost exclusively carbonic acid, it requires only to be passed through dry lime to make very pure indeed. It has been done. I have seen the results. Before it is purified its illuminating power is about 10 or 11 candles and after it is from 20 to 28 candles illuminating power.

Soon after I became a my attention was attracted to the propriety of utilizing this supply of gas I thought it was very wasteful to allow it to pass away as it was doing my first inquiry was whether it could not be distilled. I was very much surprised that it was not possible to condense more than was being then done. We have had some 800 feet of pipes laid down for the purpose of trying whether it could be done and we found that when subjected to a temperature below freezing point, no condensation whatever took place. Condensation is a question of temperature and of distance but more of the former than of the latter. We have burnt the gas on our own premises ever since they were erected and have had no difficulty or danger in dealing with it There are no drawbacks at all to its use as compared with any other gas, there is no gas purer. The illuminating power of it without purification is not quite to that of the ordinary gas supplied in London but certainly when it is purified it it superior to anything I know. It is superior to Manchester gas both in its illuminating power and purity, though the Manchester gas is supplied to the consumers at the high standard of 23 candles. I have gone carefully into the amount of capital that will be required and from my experience in Manchester of what is actually the case there I am prepared to say that within the sum mentioned in the bill, Chester could be supplied from these works.

Mr. Charles Humfrey, examined by Mr DAVISON

I am the manager of the Flintshire Oil and Cannel Company's Works and have been connected with them ever since they were first commenced by Mr Fernie in 1861. The undertaking consists of three works purchased from different parties at Saltney, Leeswood, and Trithling, near Mold. The Trithling, which were the first works, there are two pits for cannel. About £83,000 have been expended upon that property and the amount of coal there not worked is estimated at £300,000. At the Leeswood works, which are also near Mold, there are 117 retorts, and the oil which we distil from shale at those works is sent to Saltney in tanks fixed on the railway trucks. We work shale almost exclusively there, seldom anything else. I believe the curly cannel yields about 16,000 feet of gas; we get nearly 4000 by making oil.

By the COMMITTEE, - This cannel is sold in the market. It is worth 30s per ton at the pit's mouth. There are three qualities of coal in the district. The specimen produced is the first. then comes the curly cannel. and below that there is a foot of shale. I should not call the shale a coal but it is a moot point as to the difference between coal and shale. It been disputed very often.

By Mr DAVISON, -. I do not know what quantity of gas we get out of shale. We get about 33 gallons per ton of crude oil and about 80 out of the cannel. At Leeswood we consume full 350 tons of shale per week producing about 12.000 gallons of crude oil. This was the first company established in North Wales for the supply of this peculiar kind of oil. At Leeswood we do not work the curly cannel unless we are very busy. The expenditure on the Leeswood work was £10,000, and on the Saltney works about £60,000. We have a contract with the Leeswood Cannel and Gas Company to supply us with all the curly cannel and all the shale they raise. The works at Saltney are on the banks of the river Dee where vessels of 200 tons can come up easily every spring tide, but I have seen vessels of 400 tons there. We have something like 26 acres of available space there. The works cover about 5 acres and we have railway communication with North Western and Great Western Railways by sidings running the property. At present we have 115 retorts and consume about 230 tons of curly cannel every week from which we get on the average 80 gallons crude oil per ton. The distance from the Saltney to the Leeswood works about 9 miles. For the purpose of refining we have at Saltney 45 stills. They range from 350 up to 2600 gallons. We have 15 of 2600 capacity. We have 26 agitators, 7 steam boilers and 18 steam engines the works. Mr Dawson Now let us go through the process of manufacture

The CHAIRMAN - Is this examination necessary ?

Mr DAVISON - The cross examination by Mr Burke points to an allegation that the gas is not such as can be safely or properly used; (To witness) Will you begin at the point where the gas is thrown off

Witness - The cannel is broken up and placed in retorts. At the end of the retort there is a wide pipe which terminates in a condenser. It is a pipe 12 inches in diameter and 20 feet long. The cannel is weighed before it is put in the retorts so as to get the charges even. The retorts are kept heated just below visible redness in the dark and the heat draws off the volatile matters from the coal which pass into the condenser. The liquid portions run out and the gaseous portions run away through pipes and are burnt and lost; that is the paraffin light which is given off by the first operation. Our object since I have been connected with the works has been to get as much oil as possible; we have never been able to utilize the gas that is produced it has all been entirely wasted. The greater the heat the more gas is made therefore we have worked at the lowest temperature. The burning of the gas can be seen by persons at a great distance especially at night. I measured the quantity of paraffin light produced per ton of cannel very carefully and ascertained that it was exactly 3970 cubic feet which at 2s per 1000 gives something like £4800 which is being wasted every year. It is impossible to produce the oil without making some gas at whatever heat we work we make as little as we can.

In Mr Fernie's time the possibility of utilizing this gas was considered several times and I called on the Chester Gas Company to ascertain whether they would take our waste gas but nothing came of it. About two years ago I met Mr Salisbury the present chairman of this company on other business and spoke to him about it He was not then connected with the Chester Company He became chairman of this company in June 1865 and since then we have very frequently discussed the subject. He furnished me with written instructions to give the Chester Company all the information I could relating to the paraffin light and to be prepared to test the quantity and quality of it. I tested it frequently between the 15th and 29th of November last and can give the results accurately. Mr Leigh the chemist of Manchester came over several times to assist; he was there twice in November and twice in December. On the 16th of January last year I was informed that some gentlemen were coming from the Chester Gas Company to test it and I had orders to give them all the assistance I could. On the following day Dr Letheby Mr. Barlow Mr Campbell and Mr Jones came with Mr Rumnay and were shown the whole of the processes of production. Every facility was given to them and they took a great deal of pains in testing the light. They took away samples both of the pure and unpurified gas. As soon as the works were in operation we began lighting them with this gas. We work always all the night through and have had as many as 300 burners on the premises at Saltney during the last eighteen months. We have been supplied with no other kind of gas. We have not purified the gas. It has given us a good light to work by and there has been no difficulty in the use of it. There is nothing objectionable about it for lighting work. Scotland some of which have been established 15 years have the syphons pumped I do not present things

Cross examined by Mr HORACE LLOYD - We have not raised any cannel at Trithling at present. At Leeswood there is a waste of gas as distillation goes on as we only use a portion of it. We have not employed it for heating purposes at Saltney except in the offices. The curly cannel yields a kind of coke after the oil is extracted which serves for fuel and we have plenty of it so that we do not require gas as fuel. There are no burners at Leeswood because the works are mere sheds and the gas which is burning in the air gives light enough. I think it was Mr Roberts the present chairman of the gas company whom I saw on the subject at some time but nothing was done towards utilizing the gas until Mr Salisbury joined our company. I have always thought it a valuable product. There are now about thirty works on the cannel coal field of Mold and there are a great number of paraffin works in Scotland, some of which have been established 15 year. The oil varies a little but the coal is entirely different. I have visited other works to see if they utilized the gas but I have never seen anything done with it except to heat the furnaces with it and to light their own works with it. We have oil works near us which are not so large as ours The copper works are large oil works. They manufacture paraffin and distil it as well as refine it. I do not think they do anything with their gas. It is difficult to estimate temperatures. A great number of results have been stated; the last in the case of Young v Fernie. I believe I think the temperature just below a red heat is about 760 Fahr. If the temperature is increased we get more gas. I do not know that it is better - and less oil. On the day when the four gentlemen came in January to test the gas they found the gasholder nearly full. That gas was not purified. There was only a small purifier for experiments. My first instructions were to let them examine only the gas purified but they said that would not do and Mr Romney then told me to let them do as they liked. The gasholder was then emptied two or three times and fresh gas put in. Mr Barlow and Mr Jones were present to see it. They never told me that they wanted to see whether any condensation took place. I should not have prevented them if they had asked to do so. They made a great number of applications as to having plugs and so forth They applied to now whether they wished to examine them I do not know the actual result of their experiments I have tried experiments but not very carefully with the curly cannel. The illuminating power was not always the same. I have never tested it before going through the purifier to ascertain the quantity of carbonic acid it contains. I cannot any whether it is as much as one fifth. The diameter of the long pipe employed to test the condensation of the gas was 12 inches. The retorts are charged once in 24 hours. The coal charge going in somewhat cools them down and they do not get up their regular working heat much before night and most gas comes off during the night merely from the way of working it. Towards the middle of the charge the most gas is given off .What we do not use is burned at several stand pipes. The light varies during the day because the quantity varies.


As soon as counsel were admitted this morning The Chairman said; The committee have come to the following resolution. Although the committee are of opinion judging from the evidence they have heard which is that of the promoters only, that the application paraffin light to the purposes of public lighting would be advantageous, they think it inexpedient to give to a company formed to carry out the various objects mentioned in the Articles of Association the powers of the Clauses Act for that purpose. They consider that the provisions of that Act as to the limitation of dividend could not be satisfactorily carried out; they are, therefore, of opinion that the preamble is not proved

From The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply and Sanitary Improvement, 3rd April 1866