An Oil Company Heirloom

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There has come into our possession, thanks to a reader’s generosity, a book which may be of some interest to oil industry technologists. Called the “Mex Fuel Book”, it was published by the Anglo-Mexican Petroleum Company Ltd. of Finsbury Circus, London, in 1921, as a second edition of a book first published in 1914, and titled “Mexican Fuel Oil”. The Company announced that Mex fuel oil and Shell diesel oil would now be marketed in the United Kingdom by Shell-Mex Ltd., whose address was then Shell Corner, Kingsway. So much for the origins of the now well-known Shell petrol and oil.

The book goes very thoroughly into its subject, as was the usual practice in those painstaking days. It is mainly concerned with fuel for ships railways, heaters and enormous diesel engines, but it is interesting that the opening paragraph remarks on the growth of petroleum production from the drilling of the first well in 1859 to 1920, production in 1860 being 500,000 barrels, whereas in 1920 the World’s total output reached 625-million barrels. The birth of the oil industry was illustrated by figures for coal versus oil output in 1913—1,300-million tons against 50-million tons. But it was emphasised that less than one-third of the coal annually consumed was used for power production, whereas three-quarters of the petroleum consumed was so used; thus, even as far back as 1913 over 13% of the total power produced was from petroleum.

The book simply divides the oil products into three categories—Motor Spirit., Refined Oil and Fuel Oil—and it sets out to discuss the divers uses to which the last-named could be put, the range being comprehensive indeed, from annealing furnaces to zinc distillation. Fuel oil for road vehicles, it was explained, had so far made comparatively small progress but the London, Liverpool and other firebrigades were using Kermode burners for their engines.

The frontispiece is of H.M.S. Hood, the oil-fired battle cruiser, so the book is not about motoring. It lists makers of diesel and semi-diesel engines but the only familiar names are those of Dodge, Renault, Aster and Crossley, but one wonders how many executives in the oil industry remember the Mex Book?—W. B.

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