HOME FUEL FOR HOME FIRES

M. D. GEDDES December 1 1923

HOME FUEL FOR HOME FIRES

M. D. GEDDES December 1 1923

HOME FUEL FOR HOME FIRES

M. D. GEDDES

CANADA’S fuel problem is truly a difficult one to solve. The main trouble is that Canada’s coal bins, gigantic and well-stocked though they are, unfortunately are far removed from the present large centres of population.

To many thousands of thinking Canadians, it seems nothing short of an economic crime that a country so endowed with an abundance of coal, annually should spend more than a hundred million dollars to purchase fuel from a neighboring country and thus assist in the commercial prosperity of a foreign land at a time when funds are vitally needed for development at home.

Of all the natural products that enter into human use. apart from food and clothing, coal ranks easily as the most important. The old saying that "Coal is King” merely means that nations richly 1 large coal deposits hold advantages that make for In modern times no nation me truly great that did not i its borders plenty of coal, vith one exception, possesses the greatest coal fields on earth.

In the November 15 issue of Maca splendid article appeared which showed conclusively that a more extensive use of Maritime coal would greatly assist in remedying the fuel difficulty.

Our Dominion, and interested provincial governments, as well as our railways, should do all they possibly can to assist in having Maritime coal supply a much larger area westward and Alberta coal reach as far into the heart of Ontario as freight rates will permit, leaving the smallest area possible dependent upon U.S. fuel for domestic use.

Although it is well-known in mining circles that Alberta is the outstanding coal province of Canada, yet the general public seems to have a very hazy conception of its remarkable coal wealth. The geological survey of 1913 places the total coal reserves of all Canada, which includes the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and "00.000 metric tons, of which

i is credited with 1.072.627.000.000 metric tons, ives Alberta over eighty-five per cent, of all the Canada, yet, as a gigantic fuel bin, Alberta is i to still higher honor for it contains, at least, per cent, of the world's known coal supply and ?tands in first place in the British Empire for its s equal seventy per cent, of all the coal known to r countries under the Union Jack. To put this r way. for every seven tons of coal in the world, in the province of Alberta. This is a startling ent. but it is borne out by the highest investigation, leaking on this subject some time ago, the premier erta was quoted as saying: “Alberta contains seventeen per cent, of the world's known coal deposits; seventy-seven per cent, of the coal of the British Empire, and eighty-nine per cent of all the coal in Canada.”

British Columbia ranks second amongst the provinces of Canada from the standpoint of coal deposits, with Saskatchewan third and Nova Scotia fourth. The latter, however, has less than one-sixth as much coal as Saskatchewan and only a fraction moiethan one-eighth the amount of British Columbia. Thus it will be seen that the enormous bulk of Canada’s coal lies in the three most westerly provinces.

On top of this, the Northwest Territories,

Yukon and Arctic Islands have more than fifteen and a half billion tons while the six most easterly provinces combined have only slightly in excess of ten billion, of which over nine and a half billion are in Nova Scotia.

Unlimited Supply

Alberta coals range from lignite to anthracite. with the poorer grades greatly predominating in tonnage as is common in other coal countries. The area containing these immense coal deposits exceeds S 1.000 square miles and the highest authorities tell us that more than fortyfive billion tons is anthracite, semi-anthracite, or high-carbon bituminous, a supply which at our present rate of con-

S' ONE fond of figuring has made : tatemen t that there is enough Alberta to last Canada 170 3 even if our population was into the size of our well-gTOwn

sumption, some thirty-two million tons annually, would last us over fourteen centuries before we would require to touch the low-carbon bituminous or lignite coals.

It is well-known that the United States anthracite supply, which has given such excellent satisfaction in Ontario and Quebec, is rapidly being exhausted. In area it totals only 484 square miles and its reserves at the

present rate of consumption will last only eighty to one hundred years. Is it any wonder, then, that the United States Bureau of Mines has unofficially warned the Canadian Department of Mines that Canada will have to work out some solution of her own for replacing United States anthracite within a very short period? It is common knowledge that three bills were recently before the United States Congress to place an embargo on the export of anthracite to Canada and, although these did not pass, they indicated the drift of public sentiment.

The feeling exists in the minds of many easterners that Alberta coal is of poor quality; a real inferior low-grade product that cannot be satisfactorily used in the average eastern furnace. Only a few months ago a good Toronto friend of mine said to me:

“How can you expect us to use your coal? Our furnaces are not made for it.”

I replied: “Can you tell me the place where they manufacture furnaces for Alberta coal?”

That set him thinking, so he said; “I guess you get your furnaces from the East, same as we do; but,” he continued, “our chimneys are not large enough. I know there is some good reason why we cannot use it for the man I buy my coal from told me so.”

This latter point is well covered in the interim report of the Dominion Fuel Board when it says on page fifteen: “Alberta coal has a distinct advantage over United

States bituminous, in being practically smokeless.” This fallacy, however, is slowly being overcome and the 10,000 odd tons of domestic coal that were shipped into Ontario from the “sunny province,” for demonstration purposes, has helped a lot in correcting some erroneous ideas.

A report of the Ontario commission composed of General C. H. Mitchell, dean of the faculty of applied science and engineering; R. P. Fairbairn, deputy minister of public works; and J. A. Ellis, fuel controller, who were requested by the Prime Minister to investigate the adaptability of Alberta coal shipments sent to the Ontario government by the government of Alberta, in part says:

“From reports and our own investigation and observation, we are of the opinion that Alberta coal of the grades or samples submitted or similar to them, would prove a satisfactory substitute for domestic use for American anthracite coal. It would be desirable, however, that only the best grades of such Alberta coal should be shipped to Ontario.”

I quite agree with what the commissioners say regarding shipping only the best grades to Ontario, yet I do not practise it in my home in Calgary, simply for the reason that we have found some of the cheaper grades more economical. As many know, natural gas is the common fuel in Calgary, but as I live a short distance beyond the pipe-line, I am forced to burn coal. In our home we use an eastern make of hot water furnace and the coal we used last winter cost—by the

......mniniiiiiml ton, not car-load basis—$5.25, laid down

in the basement. We found the same coal gave excellent satisfaction in the kitchen range. Some of the best grades of Alberta coal are double that price in Calgary. The poorer grades require more attention in firing and won’t stand shipping as well, as they crumble more easily, and Tor those reasons, combined with the fact that the freight rate is the same no matter what the grade, it would be most unwise, if not disastrous, to ship anything but the highest quality Alberta coals into Ontario.

A few years ago, Winnipeg was faced with a fuel problem similar to that confronting Ontario to-day. Up to that time they depended almost entirely upon Pennsylvania anthracite and felt no other fuel could be expected to give satisfaction in their rigorous climate. Labor and freight difficulties, along with high prices, paved the way for Alberta coal to enter that field and now experience has taught them that with proper firing they can get more heat for less money with Alberta coal.

Coking and Distillation Plants

THE problem we are facing then is, how can this vast storehouse of fuel be used to best meet present needs? Alberta to-day is turning out a coal suitable for eastern consumption at from $4.50 to $5.00 per ton at the mine mouth. The all-rail haul at present at least appears to be prohibitive, but so it is with grain. The best solution at the moment would appear to be rail to the head of the lakes, then water to Toronto, where large coking and distillation plants should be erected to extract all by-products that present modern science can secure from coal. It is computed that each ton of Alberta bituminous will yield approximately 11,000 cubic feet of gas, two to two and a half gallons of benzol, twenty-five to thirty pounds of sulphate of ammonia, ten gallons of tar oils, etc., etc., and that with further treatment breaking up the tar oils it is practicable to secure dyes, drugs of various kinds, photographic chemicals, antiseptics, perfumes, preservatives, etc. After all this has been extracted there is approximately 1,400 pounds of residue left which make a fuel equal in every respect to the highest grade of American anthracite and owing to the profit made from by-products, should be sold for less than anthracite. Henry Ford’s catch phrase, "Burn your coal twice,” is a terse way of recommending coking plants. It is common knowl edge that the great aniline dye industry of Germany was founded upon her coal mines. Britain to-day is following her example, and why, in a smaller way, Canada cannot follow is a puzzle to me.

Continued on page 50

Home Fuel for Home Fires

Continued from page 26

On this point the interim report of the Dominion Fuel Board under the chairmanship of Chas. Camsell, deputy minister of mines, which was made public some time ago, pointed out that in the tén years ending 1921 Canada’s fuel bill for imported coal exceeded the sum of $580,000,000 and emphasized that the ideal solution for the fuel problem is “dependence upon our own fuel resources.” The report urges: Wider range of utilization of the coals of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Maritime Provinces; investigation into the feasibility of establishing by-product recovery coking plants in the larger centres of population like Montreal and Toronto; and goes on to say:

“Great improvements have been made in the technique of the manufacture of domestic coke, even very recently, and the product made is much superior to the ordinary gas-house coke. Some years ago in the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis a plant was established for the manufacture of this coke. To-day it has displaced anthracite there practically in its entirety.”

Team Work Needed

CANADA’S railways and her magnificent coal deposits are two of her resources that should, in the common interests of a greater Canada, be interlocked, thus making Canada more selfcontained and less dependent upon the United States. Naturally, to make this an unqualified success, the lowest possible freight rates are necessary, and that in

turn would mean that the coal would be shipped from the mine to the treating plant at whatever seasons the railways were slackest. In this way it could be used as a filler to keep them running on an even keel and thus entitled to a very special reduced rate. Even telegraph companies give a special rate for messages that can be sent within a reasonable time limit. All business men know the advantage of having something in their particular line that can be taken up when it suits them and dropped when other lines are urgent. So with the movement of our fuel it should be so arranged that the public would receive the full benefit they are naturally entitled to under such unusually favorable haulage conditions.

Quite a number of authorities feel that $6.00 per ton under conditions as mentioned would be fair. The Alberta government freight supervisor wrote Sir Henry Thornton and other C. N. R. officials and a quotation from one of his letters reads as follows:

“If we had a $6.00 per ton rate in train lots from Coalspur to Toronto, there is no doubt but that Alberta coal could be put down there in competition with American coal and an extensive trade developed which would have the dual effect of keeping Canadian money in Canada and creating work for the unemployed in Alberta.

“The mileage from Coalspur to Toronto via Port Arthur is 2,282. A train of fifty forty-ton cars would be an easy achievement over this'entire route. Fifty fortyton cars would be 2,000 tons, at $6.00 per ton, which would be $12,000 per train, $5.26 per train mile.

“In C.P.R. statement year ending December 31, 1920, freight train earnings per train mile lines west were $5.82, operating expenses per train mile lines west were $3.58. This, of course, includes all kinds of trains, but if the average operating cost was $3.58 per train mile, the actual cost for hauling this 2,000 ton train should be considerably less and therefore provide some considerable margin of profit on the movement.”

And these strong arguments favoring a lower rate, it will be noticed, do not take into consideration the advantages of the water route for coal shipments, nor the fact, which is .well-known, that our railways have a lot of rolling stock usually idle for several months of each year and further that they have large numbers of box cars that are past the useful stage for hauling grain, yet have years of usefulness for such purposes as coal haulage. These facts should induce our railways heads to go out of their way to establish a rate that will make it possible to haul large consignments of Alberta coal into Ontario.

Production Cost Too High

THE cost of producing coal at the mines is abnormally high and this is an exceedingly intricate and difficult phase of the situation. Increased consumption under some practical form of government supervision should help.

The Alberta output to-day is less than 7,000,000 tons annually, and if this were doubled or trebled the cost of production should be lowered considerably.

If some workable plan can be devised to increase greatly native coal consumption, it would furnish a wealth of newfound capital annually for Canada which, at present, we are handing over to our southern neighbor. It would also establish large and growing industries in Eastern Canada and provide work for thousands of additional workers both in the East and West which, in turn, would speed up industry, increase home consumption, and start a cycle of renewed prosperity. Additional industries in the West would follow as a natural result, for Alberta with its abundance of coal will in time become a manufacturing centre.

Any change of this kind must of necessity be gradual and whether Alberta coal is going to be used extensively or not, the time is ripe for large coking and byproduct recovery plants in our leading eastern cities so that coal of a cheaper grade than anthracite can be used extensively for domestic purposes.