1950 Texas Natural Gas Co. Benedum Plant

1950 Texas Natural Gas Co. Benedum Plant

Texas Natural Gas Co. came to Upton County, Texas in 1950. They selected a site to build a Natural gas processing plant 17 miles North East of Rankin. Men and equipment were brought to the site in unheard of numbers.

The Plant design was laid out in seven different stages, beginning with the engine room. The engine room floor and side wall were poured with cement mostly mixed by hand. The engine pedestals were then poured and made ready to receive the engines. Most of the engines were9 – 880 H P Clark engines with 1- 660HP and 1 440HP. The engines came unassembled, the bed section was laid first and grouted in place. The crank shaft was then added along with the block and cylinders. Pistons rods and heads were then put in place to complete the process.

The compressor cylinders were then added to the back of the engine. Not all of the engines had the same type of compressor on it. There were 4 types of compressors to be installed, low stage, second stage, high stage and propane compressors. The pressure on these cylinders ranged from 35 lbs inlet on the low stages to 800 lbs discharge on the high stage.

While crews were working on the engine room other crews were setting forms to pour the bases for the towers that were to be erected. The first tower the gas went into was the absorber, the gas went in the bottom and came out the top, as it traveled to the top of the tower lean oil or # 2 crude naphtha was flowing down wards taking all the heavy ends out of the gas, what was left was methane gas which is what we burn in our homes.

The gas then went to the de ethanizer, the same process was followed as the absorber, on this time the ethane was removed and the rest of the heavies went to the next tower.
The heavies then went to the de propanizer where he propane was removed then they went to the de butanizer where the raw gasolene went out the bottom and the butane and iso butane went out the top.

The methane, and ethane were put in different pipe lines and shipped to various places. The propane, butane, iso butane and gsaolene were pot in tanks and then loaded onto trucks and was hauled out.

The hot oil heaters were set on the West side of the plant as far away from the towers as possible. The heaters heated the hot up to be pumped back over the towers again in an endless cycle.
The generator room had 4 generators in it. There were three Coopers and one Ingersol Rand to power the generators. These were the heart of the plant, when one would go off line it usually meant the plant was going down and lots of work was ahead of every one.

The cooling tower was 50 foot tall and 300 foot long had 5 large fans in to cool the water. The hot gases were pumped through coils to cool them down and bring them back to a liquid stage.

There were 4 boilers at the plant to serve as a heat source during the winter to keep the pipes from freezing and heat some of the water and products up before shipping.

The train rack was on the East side of the plant. The train rack could hold1 small tank cars and 8 jumbo cars. The regular cars held about 13,000 gallons of butane or propane while the jumbo cars held 30,000 gals. At one time the plant was shipping over 300,000 gallons of propane a day out of the Benedum plant.

There were 5 storage wells at the site which were used to store propane under ground. These wells were the fist in the world to store products in this way. The wells had a combined capacity of 65 millions gallons, At one time there was no demand for propane
And there were over 300,00 gallons of propane a day being burnt through the flare at the plant, the flare could be seen for miles.

The company built housing for the men and their families working there. They were mostly 2 bedroom homes with a garage and 6 3 bed room homes. All together there were 24 homes built at the site. A local contractor out of Rankin was given the contract to build them. In 1967 the company sold the houses to the employees living in the houses for $250.00. The employees had to buy a lot in the place of their choice and pay to have them moved to their new location. Sixteen of the families moved their houses to Rankin, 8 went to Big Lake.

The families quickly became involved in their communities and wound up making a difference. Some became, fireman, city council members, school board members, mayors, hospital board members, and Lions Club members.

The Benedum Plant is still in operation but owned by a different company, it no long has the hot oil system but a Cryo system That uses cold instead of heat and a turbine that rotates at 85,000 RPM to separate the product. It is a skeleton of what it use to be but it still stands proud.