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Locations of Gas Plants and Other Coal-tar Sites in the U.S.

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

Introduction

            As was the case in Maine, the established early seacoast shipping

and communications with its own neighbor, Massachusetts, led to fairly early (1841) but limited establishment of manufactured gas. Cities and towns having manufactured gas before the Civil War included Great Falls (1849), Portsmouth (1851, Nashua (1852) and Claremont and Nashua (1860). Most New Hampshire gas works were created by Act of the State Legislature.

An early 20th century surge in small-town gas plant construction (including Sommersworth and Berlin) continued to expand manufactured gas coverage, though the combination of near-surface crystalline bedrock and generically-poor pipeline joint integrity was a deterrent to between-town gas piping.

New Hampshire gas makers experimented considerably with various patented gas manufacturing processes in the years before 1895: Tiffany oil gas (Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,1873); Sanders Process (Laconia,1860); an unidentified oil-gas process (Hanover,1874); Hanlon & Johnson (1878, Dover); Springer producer gas (Great Falls, 1888); and Kendall oil gas (Laconia No. 2, 1894). 

In 1883, the A.O., Granger & Co. of Philadelphia, a low-profile early subsidiary of UGI, installed the Lowe process carbureted water gas devices at Keene, and thereafter any new gas equipment installed in existing gas plants of New Hampshire were likely of the Lowe process. That same 1883 Granger Lowe set was replaced in 1924 with a new UGI CWG set, giving a good example of the life span of a well-maintained set.

In the realm of innovation, UGI chose the Manchester gas works, in 1908, to install one of the first, if not first, vertical-retort coal-gas plants in the America; the German Dessau Process.  In 1908 the Keene Gas & Electric Company chose to install a separate producer gas plant equipped with two 250-hp Westinghouse producers, to power three, vertical, three-cylinder gas engines used to drive dynamos..

In general, New Hampshire institutions are likely to have had their own gas plants, and most certainly those institutions lying at even a few km distant from existing gas works. Examples are Philips Academy at Exeter and the State Insane Asylum at Concord.

Gas company consolidation in New Hampshire was minimal due to the relatively small populations of even the major cities. There were, however, outside influences from holding companies. Of the very few examples of consolidation was the attempted 1910 merger of the Manchester Gas Light Company and the latter day (1887) Peoples Gas Light Company of that city, which was not effected until 1921, when the merged companies constructed a new gas works at South Manchester.

UGI appears to have been the first external gas entity to enter New Hampshire, at Concord, then Manchester, and stayed the course of manufactured gas at Manchester until divestiture in 1942, in accordance with the “death sentence” clause of the 1935 Federal Utilities Holding Companies Act. Further holding company activities appeared in New Hampshire early in the 20th century, with formation of Twin State Utilities Co. (NH and VT), which later took control at Dover, and then moving its offices to Boston and morphing (1926) into Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, organized as a Statewide gas and electric utility.

In 1932, the Associated Gas & Electric Company briefly owned the NH Gas & Electric Co., and supplied Dover with manufactured gas. Post-WWII:  Throughout the era of manufactured gas, a significant degree of NH gas utility ownership remained in the hands of out-of-State interests, and after WWII some of this was represented by the gas-engineer Pritchard family of Massachusetts, who had been in gas manufacturing since the 1890s.

State regulation of public utilities was ordered in 1911 by creation of the State Public Service Commission.

Around 1940, improved pipe-welding technology allowed some mid-pressure distribution to adjacent towns, along routes where mains could be economically buried without encountering crystalline bedrock.

By 1952, gas manufacture in New Hampshire was mainly too expensive to employ even carbureted water gas, and coal gas was long a technology of the past in this region, in consideration of its lack of coal deposits. In general there was a defacto Statewide conversion to high-Btu oil-gas production in anticipation of forthcoming natural gas supplies. Most of this production seems to have come from high-Btu conversion of existing CWG sets and some by installation of new Hasche-process high-Btu sets. At the same time, Butane-Air gas service was coming into place, whereby a low-cost mixing station (less than $10,000 capital, in most cases but as much as $45,000 at plants with more broad areas of distribution (such as at Laconia and its satellite towns). Railroad-delivered liquefied butane gas came mainly as derived oil refinery by-products. Butane-air was put in place at Laconia No. 2 in 1952, when the high-Btu-converted 1902 CWG set exploded. Gas Service Company, owner of the Laconia plant, went on to install Butane-air for standby and peak-shaving at Franklin in 1962.

Natural gas was in place by the mid-1960s. New Hampshire’s traditional gas & electric companies then either sold their gas distribution rights or outright sold to utilities engaged solely in natural gas distribution. The northernmost three counties of the State never received any form of gas distribution until the arrival of natural gas in the mid 1960s.

The 1970s brought yet another change, when some natural gas distribution interests sold some of the FMGPs to follow-up companies such as Allied Gas Co. at Dover, in 1978. With the 21st century, the environmental remediation fate of most of New Hampshire’s larger town and city FMGPs was in the hands of  various of the new wave of “super” utilities such as National Grid Transco Company and KeySpan. Also most of the small town gas plants remained unassessed in terms of environmental remediation.

Alternative coal-tar toxic waste sites include a few wood preservation plants, the first, in 1873 at Portsmouth, and two at Nashua, owned by the Boston & Main Railroad Co., which were treating 1.5 million cross ties per  year in 1924.

Typical New Hampshire FMGP environmental impacts are related to  omnipresent surface water. Former gas plants are typically located along rivers subject to flooding, and were especially so affected in the disastrous flood year of 1938 when considerable amounts of tar-discharge deposits were fluvially eroded and transported downstream. Tar ponds are known to have been used for discharge sumps at Concord and Laconia, and such likely were employed elsewhere in New Hampshire. The author’s research has shown that Laconia also (in 1929) converted its oldest of three gas holders to a tar-collection tank from which decanted gas liquors were discharged directly into a small bay at the head of the Winnipesauke River. This, in addition to other tar separation devices, establishes that tar-water emulsions were being produced as a result of CWG generation using materials inferior to those which were specified by Professor Lowe, originator of the process.

Click the blue "EPA" link below to view the
New Hampshire map of the EPA 1985 Radian FMGP Report.

Click the green "Hatheway" link below to view the
New Hampshire map of Professor Hatheway's research.

Copyright © 2012  by Dr. Allen W. Hatheway    All rights reserved.
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