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

THE STATE OF TENNESSEE

Introduction

            Tennessee is a State long in its east-west dimensions, largely rural and for most of the manufactured gas era was without appreciable transport routes, save its rivers. Its rivers-based early economy caused the establishment of the State’s first gas plants (Nashville, 1851; Memphis, 1852 and Knoxville, 1854). Clarksville was one of the few cities in the South to see establishment (1863) during the Civil War. The same fighting resulted in destruction of the Nashville plant, which was not rebuilt until 1876, but thereafter the proximity of coal, industry and transportation led to industry and population and multiple gas plants.

            For the remainder of the 19th century relatively little gas plant establishment occurred, but as elsewhere, with the 20th century, Tennessee gained most of its gas works.

            Coal gas was favored in Tennessee until the predictable surge of new gas plants that came about 1910, with carbureted water gas. UGI did show up at Memphis, in the former’s first year of operation, and promoted the Springer oil-enhanced water gas in one of the city’s gas plants. In 1887, The Automatic Gas Company was incorporated at Nashville, to build, sell and install gas machines of the Sloper patent. Multiple gas plant sites are to be found in most of Tennessee’s larger cities, and these came about in the following rough order: 1) opposition companies (such as Knoxville in 1903; the Chattanooga Oxygen Gas Co. of the latter city, in 1914); 2) consolidation (such as at Memphis, 1903); 3) followed by acquisition by national holding companies.

Acetylene Gas installed in 1904 at the new U.S. Army post at Chickamauga Park and it is reasonable to anticipate encountering many more of these non-threat gas plant locations in rural Tennessee.

            Typical of interrupted supplies of manufactured gas in Tennessee was the 1921 need for reactivation of Chattanooga’s CWG sets after the merchant gas supply from the local by-product Roberts coke ovens was shut off in only the second year (1919-1921) of a five-year contract (1915-1921); a ten-year contract was back in force in 1927.

            Holding companies arrived with UGI, at Memphis (1882) and Nashville (1889), Tennessee Gas Company (Nashville, 1899), and again in 1912 (Nashville Gas Co., jointly with C.H. Geist Co., while the Byllesby organization was cornering the electric generation capacity of the city). During the period of new-start (1910-1920) gas works, American Cities Gas Co., a New Orleans subsidiary of United Gas & Electric Co., was at Knoxville (1915). The national holding company acquisition frenzy of the 1920s brought such takeovers as Johnson City (1926, by Federated Utilities Co., of Battle Creek, Michigan),  EBASCO at Memphis (1922) , and Doherty was present at Knoxville (1925) through his Cities Service Co.

            Alternative coal-tar sites of Tennessee are dominated by coke ovens. We are aware of byproduct coke ovens having been located at Alton Park (near Chattanooga), Bristol, a Henry L. Doherty development (1908) first the non-recovery type and by 1908 an early by-product recovery plant at Bristol, with a 1913 take-over by Henry L Doherty. In 1914, a $1 million coke-oven plant was under construction at Durham.

            In 1923, both the F.J. Lewis and Reilly Tar distilleries were in place at Chattanooga and in 1918 the U.S. Government War Industries Board contracted for new wood alcohol plants at Collinport, Kingsport, and Lyle; three of ten such plants nationwide, engaged in recovering pine tar for conversion to non-flammable acetate-based aircraft “dope” fabric paint. Around 1920 wood preservation plants were present or established by Western Union Telegraph Co. at Cherokee, by Wood Preserving Co., Inc., at Mosheim (a CERCLIS site), and the SUPERFUND NPL American Creosote Works site at Jackson. A USEPA 1991 ROD alerts us to the Wrigley Charcoal Pits, of Hickman County.

In 1940 the Holsten (Volunteer) Army Ammunition plant was constructed and fitted with 12 WWI-era Wilputte Corporation gas producers from Tennessee Eastman. The AAP operated six of these gas producers in a single, dedicated plant building until 1991, and the site was remediated by the Army in 1996-1997. And, a Pintsch railway oil-gas plant was constructed in 1900, at Memphis

As a result of the U.S. Department of Energy predecessor program in synthetic fuels research, the Ashland Oil Company operated the Synthetic Fuel Division “H-Coal” Pilot Plant, from 1979 through 1982.

Natural gas had reached Memphis in 1929, on its pipeline pathway north to East St. Louis, Illinois, opposite St. Louis, Missouri. In anticipation of the future arrival of natural gas in Tennessee, other utilities adopted butane-air mixing plants. By 1931, butane-air was at Columbia, and nine other Tennessee cities, as installed by the Utilities Gas & Electric Co., of Chicago. In 1932, Memphis completed modification of  its old CWG sets for “cold startup” in the advent of interruptions or shortages in natural gas supply.

            According to AGA statistics, Tennessee in 1953 has manufactured gas service only in Haywood County (Brownsville), while  LPG (likely butane-air) gas service was present in only five counties, and natural gas in 27 counties, with a net balance of more counties without any form of gas service.
 

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

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

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