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Frank Titskey
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This suit charges defendants with infringement of two process patents for the production of gasoline by cracking cheap petroleum oil. Patent No. 1,392,629 was granted in 1921 to Carbon Petroleum Dubbs and thereupon assigned to the plaintiff. The other patent, No. 1,537,593, was granted in 1925 to the plaintiff upon an application filed in 1920 by Gustav Egloff. All claims of both patents are in suit except claim 6 of the Dubbs patent.

For a number of years plaintiff has been engaged in promoting the use by refiners, in this country and abroad, of the "Dubbs process" for cracking heavy petroleum oils for the production of gasoline. It owns a number of patents, including the two patents in suit, although many of them are not practiced in the Dubbs process. That process is bottomed upon the Dubbs patent in suit. In the decade before 1931 plaintiff received in royalties under licenses of the Dubbs process $33,500,000. Root Refining Company, hereinafter referred to as defendant, is engaged in the business of refining petroleum at Eldorado, Ark. The other defendant was never served with process.

The use of combustion engines in motor vehicles created a great demand for gasoline. That demand would have exhausted the available petroleum deposits within the span of a life unless a large additional supply of gasoline could be obtained. Chemists for several generations had studied the production of gasoline by cracking. "Cracking" is the decomposition of petroleum by heat and pressure, with the consequent breaking up of the molecules and the production of both lighter and heavier hydrocarbons. Gasoline is a lighter hydrocarbon produced by this chemical action. Many patents had issued for processes and apparatus to crack petroleum. The first commercially successful process of cracking to produce gasoline was invented by Dr. Burton and used by the Standard Oil Company of Indiana in 1913. Shortly after the advent of the Burton process, it was improved by the invention of Clark.

At the time plaintiff entered the field with the Dubbs process, the most effective process *765 in commercial use for producing gasoline by cracking was the Burton-Clark process. The features characterizing this process were: (1) Raising the oil to the cracking temperature by passing it through tubes located in a furnace. (2) Receiving the discharge in an unheated but insulated chamber where the vapors liberate themselves from the liquid and pass overhead to a condenser. (3) A condensing action whereby the heavier vapors are liquefied into a reflux condensate and the passing of the vapors which are not condensed to a final condenser. (4) Passing of the liquid from the final condenser to a receiver. (5) Returning the reflux condensate and the fresh charge to the heating tubes. (6) The maintenance of a pressure of approximately 95 pounds per square inch.

The Burton-Clark process is a liquidvapor phase process. There is always a very substantial quantity of liquid in the heating zone. In this process, as well as in earlier processes, the accumulation of carbon upon the heating tubes or chambers of the still was rapid and required the shutting down of the still after it had been "on stream" for a very short period. The carbon formed on the inner surfaces of the heating tubes and the heat became localized in the tubes and increased the temperature thereof to a point where their tensile strength was insufficient to withstand the high pressure. The appearance of red spots was a danger signal, and the still was shut down, the contents discharged and the parts thoroughly cleaned before an attempt was made to bring the still again "on stream." Moreover, these stills were confined to the cracking of light oils. The cracking of crude oil would have been out of the question. The normal operating cycle of the Burton-Clark still was 72 hours, of which 36 hours was the "on stream" period and the balance of the cycle was used in cleaning the still and bringing it "on stream." The monthly output was about 4,000 barrels, with a gasoline yield of from 30 to 33 per cent.

In the summer of 1919 the operation of the Dubbs still at Independence was witnessed by 21 refinery representatives. These observers were familiar with the Burton and Burton-Clark type of still. The "on stream" period of the Dubbs still in this demonstration was 800 per cent. longer than it had been possible to obtain in any other gasoline cracking process. The explanation of the length of the run was the employment of the "clean circulation" feature of the Dubbs process.

The Standard Oil Company of California also recognized the superiority of this process. It had used the Burton and Burton-Clark types of still for cracking the heavy California oils, but found them unsatisfactory. That company maintained a development department of 200 men at a yearly cost of a million dollars in a vain effort to develop a successful cracking process. It sent one of its engineers to a plant of the Shell Company to observe the operation of a Dubbs unit. Upon receiving the report of the engineer, Hanna, vice president of the California Company, wrote to his superior officers, inter alia:

The apparatus disclosed in the Dubbs patent comprises five important parts: (1) Tubes called "cracking tubes" in a furnace through which a mixture of fresh charging stock and reflux condensate is continuously flowing as a stream with enough liquid oil to wash the tubes and prevent the deposit of carbon. Here the oil is raised to the maximum temperature in the process and is *766 cracked to a considerable extent. (2) An insulated and unheated chamber, or chamber heated only enough to offset heat radiation, wherein the vapors separate from the liquid oil and pass up and out to a partial condenser. From the bottom of this chamber the liquid residue is discharged from the system. (3) A settling chamber or dephlegmator where the lighter fractions of vapor pass on to the final condenser and the heavier fractions are condensed and return as a condensate to the cracking tubes. (4) A final condenser. (5) A high pressure pump forcing fresh charging stock into the cracking tubes.

The process disclosed in the Dubbs patent is characterized by the following features: (1) The passage of oil in a stream through cracking tubes where its temperature is raised to the maximum and cracking occurs without substantial separation of the generated vapors from the liquid. The vapors generated in the cracking tubes are homogeneously disbursed in the liquid oil and pass with the liquid as a stream through the tubes whereby carbon deposits are prevented. (2) The discharge of the heated stream from the cracking tubes into the separating chamber where cracking is continued and the vapors free themselves from the liquid and pass up and out of the top. (3) Subjecting the vapors from the separating chamber to condensation in a dephlegmator. The lighter vapors pass on to another condenser and are finally drawn off as gasoline. The heavier fractions are returned as a clean condensate to the cracking tubes. (4) Continuously withdrawing this condensate, called "reflux," and mixing it with a fresh charge of oil. (5) Withdrawing permanently from the system the residue accumulating in the separating chamber. (6) Imposing the pressure of self-generated vapors on the oil undergoing treatment.

A comparison of the Dubbs process with the Burton-Clark process shows: (1) In the Burton-Clark process widely used before Dubbs, the residue accumulating in the separating chamber was recirculated through the cracking tubes. In Dubbs this recirculation does not occur. (2) In the Burton-Clark process the reflux condensate was returned to the cracking tubes through the separating chamber and therefore became contaminated with the residue. (3) The Burton-Clark process is a semibatch process, whereas the Dubbs process is a continuous one. With these differences there are striking consequences. Burton-Clark required a special cracking stock, whereas Dubbs handles any petroleum oil. Burton-Clark had an "on stream" period of approximately 36 hours, whereas Dubbs has an "on stream" period many hundred per cent. longer. The gasoline yield of Burton-Clark was from 30 to 33 per cent., whereas the Dubbs yield is approximately 50 per cent.

The Egloff process was designed to further mitigate the carbon evil in connection with the cracking of heavy oils. This process utilizes the salient features of the Dubbs patent. It provides a preliminary screening action for removing from the system the free carbon and heavy polymers which rapidly snowball to coke. The apparatus includes a separating chamber with a residue draw-off followed by a partial condenser, final condenser, and receiver. With these features two heating coils are associated in separate furnace chambers so that different heat and pressure conditions may be obtained. The fresh feed is pumped through the low temperature coil and its temperature is raised to effect a very mild cracking. The oil discharges into the vaporizing chamber and the vapors pass to the dephlegmator. The condensate in the dephlegmator is pumped through the high temperature coil and mixed with the reflux condensate from the other coil. There is an intermingling of two oil streams on their way to the vaporizing chamber. In this process there are two charging stocks: one, the fresh oil which is pumped into the low temperature coil, and the other, a charge formed by the partial condensing of the vapors from the first charge.


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