Indiana Gas Company
The discoveries of natural gas in Eaton and Portland quicky ignited Indiana’s historic gas boom. New exploration and production will dramatically change the state’s economy.
The “Trenton Field” as it would become known, spread over 17 Indiana counties and 5, 120 square miles. It was the largest natural gas field known in the world. Within three years, more than 200 companies were drilling, distributing, and selling natural gas.
Replacing Coal Gas
In 1859, the same year that “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake drilled the country’s first commercial oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, there were already 297 “manufactured gas” (known as coal gas) companies in the 33 United States.
Coal gas was produced in a distillation process that extracted it from bituminous coal. After further purification, coal gas was distributed via low-pressure street mains to consumers. Coal gas, also called “town gas, ” provided home illumination to almost five million customers.
Although natural gas was known to burn much cleaner, hotter, and more efficiently than coal gas, pre-Civil War technology made handling it far too dangerous for commercial applications. When drilling for oil, natural gas was often found – a colorless, odorless, highly flammable and unwelcome hazard.
Kerosene distilled from crude oil would fuel the country’s lamps and lanterns at an affordable price. But while America’s insatiable demand for kerosene built wooden derricks up and down the Allegheny River, and the coal gas business prospered, natural gas was just an impediment.
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Toledo built coal-fired foundries and factories where iron, steel, and glass were produced in huge quantities for an expanding nation. Throughout the Midwest, railroads brought new industries into what were once almost exclusively agrarian economies. Coal and increasingly oil were in great demand as natural gas began entering the energy mix.
Indiana’s first official natural gas well is credited to G. Bates, who found gas while drilling for oil at a depth of 500 feet in 1867. Two decades later, nearby gas wells piped gas into Francesville, Pulaski County for about four years.
New coal sources were still coveted. In 1876, W. W. Worthington, superintendent of the Ft. Wayne & Southern Railroad, and partner George Carter, an experienced quarry owner, set out to find coal. They bored a two-inch diameter test core only 50 feet from the railroad tracks in Eaton, Indiana.See also:
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