Appendices - Hirohito's War
APPENDIX N: THE ROLE OF OIL IN THE PACIFIC WAR
The Growth of Oil Fired Engines in the Marine Industry: Rudolph Diesel, understanding that coal fired steam engines dissipated as much as 90 per cent of the energy they generated, produced the first diesel internal combustion engines in the last decade of the 19th Century and patented much of the technology. He died in penury – mysteriously found floating in the Atlantic after his cabin was found empty during a transatlantic crossing in 1913.
A year earlier the Danish merchantman Selandia became the first ship to be powered exclusively by oil rather than coal. In the same year that Selandia was launched the first diesel locomotive was also built. From 1914 German submarines were fitted with diesel engines built by MAN of Augsburg, which solved the problem of on board fumes and dirt that had occurred with coal fired systems. Sneider & Co. in France and Fabrica Italiani Automobili Torino (FIAT) also developed products. In the UK, Harland and Wolf took an exclusive license to build engines developed by Burmeister and Wain of Copenhagen. Within a decade Rudolph Diesel’s technological breakthroughs had triumphed. Submarines apart, war put a break on development. However Vickers of Barrow, working with the British Admiralty designed a small MAN designed diesel powered coastal gunship, HMS Marshall Soult, which was commissioned in 1915. Her diesel engines had been filched from the experimental Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Trefoil.
The move to oil as the main energy source for marine transport had an early champion in Marcus Samuel of Shell Transport and Trading. In the low quality Texas crude which was not suitable for illuminating oil but perfect for marine engines, Samuel saw an opportunity and he signed a 20 year purchase contract with James Guffey whose Spindle Top in Beaumont, Texas, became the world’s largest gusher, at 100,000 barrels a day, when it blew on 10 January 1901. Spindle Top would spawn both Gulf Oil and Texaco. For Samuel the deal also enabled him to diversify his company’s interests from its high dependence on Russian supply – a main reason too for his merger with Royal Dutch Petroleum.
It proved a wise move. In 1904 a worker insurrection in the oilfields of Baku, Azerbaijan, during the Russo-Japanese War brought a major disruption to the global oil market. In part it led to Czar Nicholas II’s introduction of a Duma (parliament), a liberalisation that far from staunching the call for social change, dramatically increased it. In 1907, a young Stalin was sent by the Bosheviks to stir up worker unrest in Baku. Seeing the gathering storm and rising anti-Semitism, the Rothschilds sold out their family interests in Russia to Shell in 1911 in return for stock – They too were keen to diversify their political risk. In the newly booming oil fields of Persia, Shell was less successful. Here the British government, spurred on by Winston Churchill, and wishing to rid itself of its dependence on Shell and Standard Oil, invested directly in the Anglo-Persion Oil Company, itself a listed subsidiary of Burma Oil, in order to secure supplies of oil for its Navy, which was in the process of converting from coal to oil.
After the war experiments continued with Swan Hunter licensing a diesel designed by AB Diesel Motorer of Stockholm. Camell Laird also built three experimental facing piston Fullager diesels. William Doxford & Son on the Weir developed a similar diesel technology, which they licensed. Doxford would have even more success with its long stroke, balanced diesel engine developed in 1926, which was selected by Furness Withy for its new luxury liner, the Bermuda.
In spite of technical problems that continued to plague the industry throughout the 1920s, the trend to diesel appeared unstoppable. By the 1930s the marine industry began a rapid conversion from coal power steam turbines to diesel-powered turbines. Fuel efficiency and space economy would prove decisive. Based on a 2,400 BHP merchantman the running cost savings over a year (based on 200 days of travel) were estimated at £27,000 per annum in 1920. Coalbunkers took up much more space and coal-fired steam units, though similar in size and weight to diesel units needed larger engine room crews. Steam ship engines were typically 22—25 percent larger than those of diesel equipped ships of a similar size. Diesel ships could travel further without bunkering and as ports around the world increasingly fitted diesel bunkers to their facilities, the switchover speeded up. As the Chief Superintendent Engineer of Blue Funnel Line, a leading merchant ship owner, noted in 1924, ‘Oil for marine purposes has come to stay.’4
In spite of the huge installed base of coal powered steamers, new ships were increasingly fitted with diesel engines to the extent that by 1940 coal accounted for less than 50 percent of the market. Relatively the UK, with the world’s largest merchant fleet, lagged, with diesel penetration in overseas market almost 50 percent greater than in the UK, where the coal lobby fought a fierce rearguard action even in the House of Commons. By contrast German producers of diesel engines, particularly Deutsche Werft were particularly successful; this Hamburg based company would later build 113 Type IX and Type XXIII U-boats for the Kriegsmarine.