IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW Winter 1945 pages 36 to 39
courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Calgary

IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW Winter 1945 small tanker Norwood Park takes on fuel
IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW Winter 1945 deck of a small tanker Norwood Park
A small tanker comes into the dock where the oil loading jetties are located in Halifax harbour. These vessels did invaluable work in the fast fuelling of ships during the war.

The "cluttered orderliness" of a tanker’s deck. It is covered with control valves, deck wells, loading hose, and fire equipment.

IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW Winter 1945 small tanker Norwood Park takes on fuel
IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW Winter 1945 small tanker Norwood Park takes on fuel
The "Norwood Park" taking on fuel at Halifax Refinery. When the hoses are connected the pumps are started and the tanker fills at the rate of 4,000 barrels an hour from the storage tanks.

Forced by steam pumps, the oil comes down from shore tanks to the oiling jetty below, and into the tanker “Norwood Park” alongside.

IF Y0U were to hold mirror to the first 67 months, of the wartime industrial picture of Imperial Oil, Limited in the Maritimes, the reflection would be the pulsing movement of the mighty Allied effort on Canada’s eastern seaboard - the greatest convoys of all time, the warships and merchantmen and troopers, the coast-long mushrooming of air stations, patrol by land and sea and air, the military camps.

The first and greatest job was oil for ships, more than 4,000,000 barrels a year. The next was aviation gasoline for the air stations that dotted the coastline. Then came a host of other priority demands: the army, contractors’ needs for defence projects, steel mills, coal mines, shipbuilding yards.

The intricate job of pinpointing supply where and when needed, always in sufficient quantity but not permitting a surplus to jam a port or a station and tie up vital shipping space, was one of the master strokes in home-front war effort. ft was achieved by complete cooperation between railroads, the services, and the petroleum industry. Imperial Oil Limited had about 300 tank cars on the Maritime rails at all times. Their schedules would be carefully worked out for maximum efficiency of supply. Then suddenly the whole situation would change. Weather would black out some areas. Enemy activity would bring ships and aircraft to others. Troop movements would jam rail heads. Supply ships would be delayed and sometimes sunk. Tank cars and sometimes ships would have to be recalled or re-routed, and a Maritimes-wide schedule re-made; and this, perhaps, would again be scrapped in 24 hours in light of shifting demands.

There were many grave times in those 67 months. One exceeded all others. In 1942 the Germans cut supply lines along the Atlantic seaboard from South American and U.S. Ports to the point where tankers could not supply the crude oil demand at Halifax Refinery. These were the days when Allied heads of government wondered if the war would be won.

This crisis was met by bringing tank car trains from the Montreal & Sarnia Refineries of Imperial Oil Limited. From May to November, 1942, a total of 1,942 tank car loads of fuel held Allied supply lines from snapping at Halifax. Those cars travelled over lines already sorely pressed with traffic.

For the rest of the time, Halifax Refinery was able to import enough crude oil, if not all it would have liked. Many millions of gallons of refined products brought by rail from Montreal and also by sea from other points supplemented its production.

It is a human failing to look back over the hands once they have been played and discover what happy combinations won the game, in spite of the magnificent work done in other Maritime centres, this inevitably leads us to Halifax, a great seaport. Here called the biggest ships in the world, sucking up 5,000 tons at a fuelling. Convoys of up to 170 ships sailed in one day. In 2,000 days 20,000 ships passed through this port.

When the first world war began, Imperial Oil Limited had storage tanks on the shores of Bedford Basin beyond Halifax Harbor proper. These were sufficient to bunker the ships of that day, but the strategic importance of the great convoy port made it obvious these would prove inadequate. It was decided to build a refinery across the harbor some two miles below the town of Dartmouth. The work was begun in 1916 and was near completion in 1917; as the cargoes of crude came in from the southern ports the refinery played a vital part at one of the most critical junctures of the first battle of the North Atlantic against Germany’s undersea boats.

Such was its beginning. During the peace years there were a few changes. in 1939 it sprawled along 5,000 feet of harbor waterfront, and back from the shore over 532 acres of land. Adjoining it was a village of 32 residences, built for company employees because of the remote situation of the refinery. It had three docks; there are now six. its capacity was 41,000 barrels per stream day of refined products.

In its manufacturing hand Halifax Refinery held some trump cards. They permitted it roughly to double total production during war as compared with the previous five years, and to increase by more than four times the output of bunker fuel for ships.

Curiously enough it was a trend away from production of bunker fuel that was responsible for this achievement. Prior to 1930 all crude was processed in units known as crude skimming stills. These, by a simple process, break down the crude oil into its chief components: gasolines, the diesel oils, the heavier bunker oils and asphalt.

But this equipment was not adequate to meet the demand of the times. The world was speeding up. Everyone was buying a car; aircraft were becoming more and more common. Ship traffic was falling off rather than increasing. More and better gasoline was the need, not bunker fuels.

Chemical engineers of the oil industry had discovered a wonderful new way to produce more gasoline. In addition to the gasoline naturally in the oil they took the “gas oils” and by subjecting them to a heat and pressure treatment, "cracked" them and lo! they broke up again like the original crude into gasolines, light oils such as the diesels, bunker, and asphalt. Later a further processing change was decided upon, and this resulted in the redesigning of the refinery’s "two stage cracking units" to a Combination Unit incorporating the skimming of raw crude oils.
This bunker fuel flowed out to other ports also, for the fueling of the vast supply fleets crossing the North Atlantic. Much of it went to Newfoundland; Saint John, N.B. and Sydney, N.S, were two important Maritime convoy ports.

Some idea of the work of the refinery may be had from production figures. Prior to the war, the average for five years was 98,000 barrels of bunker fuel per month. During the five war years the average was 400,000 barrels per month. The five year pre-war average of crude oil handled was 3,960,000 barrels; the average for each of the five war years was 6,850,000 barrels.

Vast quantities of fuels and lubricants were required for the host of major construction projects such as dockyards and air fields throughout the Maritimes. A major part of these came from the refinery. Asphalt, too was supplied for air stations at Debert, Yarmouth, Sydney, Moncton, Summerside, Charlottetown, Dartmouth, Greenwood and Newfoundland airports. The steel mills and the shipyards speeded up and the company’s lubricating engineers were constantly in touch with industry, studying and solving new problems. But the greatest effort of the petroleum industry centred about the ships and the war-long Battle of the North Atlantic. Let’s look at the oil jetties, where the ships refuel.

during WW2 the Halifax Refinery of Imperial Oil Limited roughly doubled its total production.
The Halifax Refinery of Imperial Oil Limited roughly doubled its total production. More than 19,000,000 barrels of bunker and Diesel fuel were supplied to ships.

In the summer of 1939, for instance, they knew at Halifax Refinery’s jetties that something was up. There were sudden, inexplicable movements of ships and demands for fuel. British cruisers tied up quietly at the dock, and destroyers edged their sharp prows in during the last days of August. War was declared September 3rd.

The biggest ship that had ever tied up at the refinery came in 10 days later - the French liner "Champlain". She was lost by enemy action later, like many another old friend or acquaintance at the oiling jetties.

Not long afterward another French liner, the mighty "Pasteur" broke this "big ship" record. The "Pasteur" is a 30,000 tonner. There were others also.

The “Iocoma”, an Imperial Oil Limited tanker which had been in Montreal when war was declared, arrived September 15th. She took over the onerous job of harbor fueling, and no one dreamed what demands would be made upon her. At one time she did not stop work for two weeks. Her ship’s company snatched forty winks when the ship was alongside the jetty taking on oil or up in the harbor pumping into the tanks of a merchantman or warship. Weeks and months ran by with scarcely a break of a moment for the hands, who slept, ate and worked aboard as if they were steadily at sea.

From the time of the "Iocoma’s"’ arrival the oiling jetties extended their work to the harbor, the docks, and Bedford Basin. "locoma", in fog, mist, snowstorms and fine weather, 24 hours a day, would poke her way about looking for ships showing the three vertical white lights that meant they wanted fuel.

The last weeks of ‘39 brought great and famous ships "Repulse", "Revenge", "York", "Furious", "Warspite", "Resolution", "Perth" - and the big troopers - the men at the oiling jetties knew the secrets of war, but they kept them well - the French "Lorraine", "Marseillaise", "Gloire", "Dunkerque" - names that are forever written into the history of World War II.

Ships and their men became real, became friends. The "Jervis Bay", for instance, that took on fuel from the refinery before her glorious last voyage. Not only the navy and merchant navy, but the men of the company’s own tanker fleet, running crude and extra cargoes of refined products into Halifax.

A Norwegian whaler, a floating factory, came in with tanks full of oil, and like a mother duck with a family of ducklings brought a flock of fishing schooners that were to become navy patrol ships.

The chaps at the jetties and on the "Iocoma" felt they were getting quite chummy with such doughty visitors as "Royal Sovereign", "Malaya", "Valiant", "Revenge", "Caradoc" - stalwarts of British sea power.

Late in ‘40 the U.S. destroyers of the "destroyers-for-bases" trade began to arrive. They couldn’t make the full trip to Britain, and the tanker "Petrolite" was loaded with 12,000 barrels of bunkers and sailed ahead of them for Newfoundland. In St. John’s harbor they tied up alongside her, and she topped off their tanks. They had tough trips. The fall gales were blowing up, and some of the young sailors had no enthusiasm for the job.

The procession continued and grew as the Battle of the Atlantic waxed in intensity. It seemed hard to believe the figures of the Halifax pre-war seasons. In 1935 there had been 46 liners in all in the four month Winter season. In 1939 there were 90 liners. All other ships of assorted sizes, taking much less fuel, amounted to about 30 a month.

Then came Pearl Harbor. The ships came in a rush. Big and small, merchantmen and navy. H.M.S. "King George V" moved majestically into the harbor, and stealthily by night the "Iocoma" tied up alongside and filled her tanks. It was good to see her strength. Most of the warships of those days were the hastily converted Armed Merchant Cruises, many of these the ships mentioned above that in peace years used to come in as liners.

The "Royal Sovereign" docked. As the "Iocoma" pumped oil in from one side the crew saw fortunes in gold bricks being carried off the other. They weren’t allowed to move until the gold had all been taken ashore.

The famous French submarine "Surcouf", once the biggest in the world, came in; and then the "Capa Rosa", the prize of war captured in the St. Lawrence. This was indeed a panorama of events.

There were also interesting visitors. Russian submarines. The "Queen Elizabeth" with an order for 6,000 tons at one fueling. And strange ships, now known to all the world but then most secret, called landing ships.

The landing ships passed through Halifax in an ever-increasing stream - landing ships of all types, for many purposes. The men at the oil jetties also noted the growing traffic in troopers the "Queen Elizabeth", the "Queen Mary", "Aquitania", "Andes", "Pasteur" - the greatest, the most famous, filling with troops invasion-bound.

Then came June, 1944. For three weeks there was scarcely a ship in. The lull had but one meaning: invasion. All Summer there was a rush of shipping, supplies for the arms-hungry, food-hungry fighting fronts.

Then the troopers started coming back. Victory was ours. Ships that were old friends came back. Others would never sail again.

An oil jetty is in the dress row for the panorama of ships that go down to the sea, and the men who sail them. The work of the company in the Maritimes reflected the whole pulsing war of movement on the Atlantic seaboard.

There are 10 fuel compartments on the “Norwood Park”, Gauger George Hoskin, of Halifax Refinery, is discussing the fuel load with Chief Stoker Donald Conron of the Royal Canadian Navy.
There are 10 fuel compartments on the “Norwood Park”, Gauger George Hoskin, of Halifax Refinery, is discussing the fuel load with Chief Stoker Donald Conron of the Royal Canadian Navy. The gauger’s job is to see that the fuel tanks are properly "topped off" and to measure the amount.

So it came about the new equipment for this purpose was installed at Halifax Refinery in 1938. The new "combination Unit - skimming and two-stage cracking" was the pride of the refinery. Men glanced at the old crude skimming stills as they walked by with a look that told you this outmoded equipment had seen its day.

Then came the war. The ships wanting 5,000 tons at a fuelling - the great convoys - the "Queen Mary," "Queen Elizabeth", the "Renown" and "Hood" sailing out to meet the "Bismarck" - they wanted bunker fuel, high grade bunkers, to give every ounce of power to the turn of the ship’s screws as they sought the enemy or ran his gauntlet.

Suddenly the old crude skimming stills, thoroughly efficient for the job of producing bunker, became respectable. Halifax Refinery played its trump card to the tune of 18,000 barrels per stream day, of which roughly 80 percent was bunker. Refinery engineers are practical men and not given to idle reflection, but many a time as they watched the veteran crude skimming stills pour out bunkers to the ships they thought of the happy wisdom of the company’s executives in installing a new unit and leaving the old to give flexibility of production in spite of the new gasoline era of the past two decades.

All this, however, is not to belittle the work of the new Combination Unit, which produced 16,000 barrels per stream day, including aviation and motor gasoline. The remaining 7,000 barrels of production came from a “rerun still”.

Imperial Oil’s Dartmouth refinery, the only plant of its kind on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard.
These crude skimming stills were revived to supply bunker fuel to meet the immense demands of wartime shipping.
During the war years the tremendous requirements of bunker fuels, aviation and motor gasoline and other products presented a special challenge to Imperial Oil’s Dartmouth refinery, the only plant of its kind on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard.

These crude skimming stills were revived to supply bunker fuel to meet the immense demands of wartime shipping. They ran up to 18,000 barrels per day.

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Imperial Review Winter 1945, PDF format courtesy of  Glenbow Archives, Calgary