Plant That Burned Natural Gas Now Distant Memory


By 1923, most wells were run with pumps, compounding the need to get rid of gas with the need for a constant supply of power. Midwest Refining Company soon decided to build an electric plant just north of the field on the banks of Shannon Lake, a body of water created by the damming of Salt Creek.

Information that follows about the plant, its construction and operation is gleaned from interviews with current and former Midwest residents, archival newspaper articles and information obtained at the Salt Creek Museum in Midwest.

Building such a structure was no small feat. In 1923, the arc welder hadn’t been invented. Most materials were transported by teams of horses. Steel beams were riveted together.

All told, the building took more than 30,000 sacks of concrete and 350 tons of steel to build.

More than 2,000 men worked to build the plant. They also constructed the array of houses for plant workers and their families, nicknamed Electric Plant Camp, soon after.

Construction on the outside of the building came to a close in October 1924. The plant began operation the next January.

The steel and concrete structure housed four boilers, two Allis-Chalmers turbines capable of generating 25 megawatts of electricity and two circulating pumps. Four smokestacks, 12 feet in diameter and 50 feet tall, protruded through holes in the plant’s ceiling. In the 1940s, one of the stacks would be removed and installed in a warship.

Natural gas was piped in on a seven-mile line, transported directly from the field’s gas processing plant.

Sometimes, to keep the line from freezing, workers added a barrel of alcohol to the pipe.

The four enormous boilers were lined with fire brick. The boilers burned the gas, which heated water from the lake, creating steam to spin the turbine. It was the first natural gas-fired plant in Wyoming, and possibly one of the first in the world.

The plant made Salt Creek Field one of the first electrified oil fields in the world. The electricity was also used to light the first fully-lit football game in the country in 1925.

The Midwest Electric Plant hasn’t generated electricity in 60 years, but it’s still alive to Orin Young.

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Posted by on Jan 2nd, 2013 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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