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Friday, 7 August 2009

The purification saga

This account of early gas works and chemists must now go right back to the beginning and look at another problem - how to prevent coal gas smelling so bad. In the course of this we will meet many of the same people again.


Soon after coal gas began to be made for public use another, and very unpleasant, waste product began to make its presence felt. This was the refuse from the 'purification' of the new gas - the cleaning up process designed to make it more acceptable for everyday use. Initially the problems were ones of disposal but as time went on those problems became a series of challenges for chemists to solve.


Some of the most formidable obstacles' to the introduction of gas for lighting involved the nature of the raw, washed, coal gas'. In the first gas making plants of Boulton and Watt the gas may not have been cleaned at all - people talked about the 'Soho Stink'. The gas was washed with water but nothing more despite hints about purification in the paper given to the Royal Society and attributed to Murdoch.

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