In 1964 Power Gas Ltd and ICI Led the World

This is an advert stating that Power Gas Ltd, in Bowesfield Lane, were the leaders in designing and building a new type of steam reformer which could be made to produce either hydrogen or town gas. The basic process had been developed by ICI Billingham, using naphtha, a kind of cheap low grade petrol. ICI had needed to invent a new catalyst to cope with naphtha as steam reformers, up to that time, had used natural gas as a feedstock. Indeed, before the discovery of North Sea Gas, ICI were going downhill as they had had to rely on coal to make hydrogen. Billingham, in a sense, was a glorified gas works with all that this implies in terms of filth and expense.

Being in the same area there was a close relationship between ICI Billingham and Power Gas, so it was an obvious step to get Power Gas building the new type of steam reformer. Steam reforming using naphtha saved the ICI and also saved British Gas. The advert shows that Power Gas was the first to build steam reformers in a number of places and countries. One picture shows the overall advert, the other picture, plants that Power Gas had built.

Pictures and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

11 thoughts on “In 1964 Power Gas Ltd and ICI Led the World

  1. I was an apprentice instruments draughtsman from Sept 1964 at Power Gas. Each year, during tech college term time, we worked in the offices designing the next steam naphtha reformer gas plant they would be building. During the summer college holiday, we were sent to site during a construction period. The sites I worked on were Govan, Leith, Isle of Grain, and Coleshill in the West Midlands. That last one was one of the last before natural gas began to come into the networks from the North Sea.


    • Colin I was in the electrical section of the Power Gas offices around that time I remember your name and feel sure that we met. I was on a HND Electrical Engineering course at Constantine from 1962 to 1965.
      Like yourself I gained valuable experience in The Power Gas Offices at Stockton, on Gas Reformer Plants at Whitehill Point near to North Shields and Croydon Gas Plant on Purley Way. I took my new wife directly from a short Honeymoon in Leeds and Nottingham to a flat in Croydon!
      I was on Shift work as part of the Commissioning Team My wife soon got a job as a nurse in Croydon Hospital.
      I left PGC and Stockton in August 1970 to Join Shell UK Chemicals at Carrington. Apart from Building ICI Gas Reformer Plants PGC produced their fair share of Engineers.
      How many are still following life on Teesside via the comments on Picture Stockton Archive


      • I remember you! I was at Power Gas 1963 to 1969 in the Training School and Civil and Structural Dept and was at Constantine too. returned to Davy Mckee, in the same offices, several times over the years with Simpson Coulson.


        • I started my apprenticeship there September 1964, in the training school with Eric Hugill teaching us tech drawing. My education went as far as HNC in Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, and Control Systems Theory. After leaving PGC in 1964, I started on the ladder to a very successful career in industrial electronics. Now returned to the area to live in Yarm.


  2. I worked in Operations on ICI Billingham’s Steam Reform & No 1 Methanol plant in the early 1970’s during the time the reformers were Naptha fired & also during the changeover to Natural Gas firing.


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