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STANDARD OIL DEV. CO. v. JAMES B. BERRY SONS' CO.

April 17, 1936

STANDARD OIL DEVELOPMENT CO.
v.
JAMES B. BERRY SONS' CO., Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GIBSON

The court makes the following findings of fact:

1. This is a suit for the infringement of two patents relating to the distillation of petroleum. Loomis patent No. 1,756,032, issued April 29, 1930, upon an application filed June 8, 1922, is for a process applicable to the distillation of crude petroleum generally, or petroleum from which the lighter fractions have been removed. Loomis and Lewis patent No. 1,746,198, issued February 4, 1930, upon an application filed June 2, 1924, is for a method for the vacuum distillation and rectification of paraffin distillate.

 2. These two patents are owned by the plaintiff, Standard Oil Development Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. The defendant, James B. Berry Son's Company, is a Pennsylvania corporation, a subsidiary of the Quaker State Oil Refining Company, and conducts the operations against which the suit is directed at its refinery at Oil City, Pa.

 Findings Relating to the Loomis Patent.

 3. Petroleum is a very complex mixture of different hydrocarbons which may be separated according to their volatilities by distillation.

 The conventional method of distillation in use at the time of the Loomis invention in 1922 involved the use of large cylindrical vessels known as shell stills. In its simplest form, this distillation was conducted by placing a charge of oil in a still and applying heat. The constituents of the highest volatility were vaporized first and, as the temperature was increased, constituents of progressively lower volatility were vaporized. The vapors were condensed and the condensate segregated as desired to form the various commercial products such as gasoline, kerosene, etc.

 Shell stills were also used in batteries to enable continuous operation. In this operation the oil was passed through a series of shell stills maintained at progressively higher temperatures, products of successively lower volatility being vaporized and withdrawn from the respective stills.

 In some distilling operations the oil was heated in a coil pipe heater placed in a furnace.

 4. Rectification columns were sometimes used in connection with shell stills to improve the separation between products of relatively high volatility, such as gasoline, kerosene, etc. This was accomplished by passing the vapors from the shell still upward through a column which contained means, such as "bubble plates," for compelling intimate contact between the rising vapors and a descending stream of liquid "reflux" condensed from the vapors at the top of the column. The heat for this operation was conventionally applied to the still at the bottom of the column. In the conventional use of a rectification column, the product was fed to the middle of the column, and this was done in some operations.

 5. Petroleum is quite sensitive to heat, its heavier molecules decomposing if maintained long at high temperature. Sometimes, as when large quantities of gasoline are desired, petroleum is deliberately decomposed or "cracked" by subjecting it to high temperatures. But any considerable destruction of the heavier molecules is disadvantageous where it is desired to produce lubricating oils.

 6. Two outstanding characteristics of shell still operation were the long time during which the oil was maintained under heat and the relatively high temperature necessary to secure the desired vaporization. Both of these things were correlatively conducive to decomposition. The temperatures required to vaporize lubricating stocks in shell stills at atmospheric pressure are within the cracking range.

 7. The process disclosed by the Loomis patent for the distillation of petroleum is carried out with the aid of one or more pipe stills and rectification columns. Considering the operation of a single pipe still-bubble tower unit, the oil is passed rapidly through the pipe still -- a coil located in a suitable furnace -- and is heated in this way in a very short time to a temperature sufficient to vaporize that portion of the feed which it is desired to remove as distillate and also enough of the balance to serve as reflux in the rectification column. The entire feed (both the vaporized and unvaporized portions) is then discharged from the pipe still directly into an intermediate zone of the rectification column. The feed contains substantially all of the heat that is required for the operation. The specifications, however, mention steam, in open or closed coils, as a heating means at the bottom of the column. Also, heated product from the second unit is returned to the preceding unit. Steam is admitted at the bottom and rises through the column in intimate countercurrent contact with the descending liquid in one form of the operation. Light fractions dissolved in this descending oil are "stripped" from it by the rising steam. The rising steam passes through the liquid in the separating chamber and continues upward in the column with the vaporized portion of the feed. A portion of the vapor reaching the top of the column is condensed and permitted to flow back down the column against the rising vapors. The interaction between this descending condensate, or reflux, and the rising vapors gives a rectificatory separation between the distillate and the residue.

 The residue from this column may be fed to a second pipe still-bubble tower unit where it ...


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