AIME Annual Meeting, 16–20 February, New York


The first commercial and privately-financed plant to make gasoline and other petroleum products from a source other than crude oil was placed into successful operation during 1957. The techniques of mining the Gilsonite raw material, moving it to a suitable refinery location, and converting it to useful products were an engineering challenge that can now be discussed in the light of eight months' commercial operation.


The first Gilsonite solids were transported 72 miles in a pipeline over the Book Cliffs Mountains in western Colorado and arrived at the American Gilsonite Co.'s new refinery located near Grand Junction on April 15, 1957. This accomplishment was the turning of an economic key that will unlock and make into useful products, such as gasoline, metallurgical grade coke and chemicals, the equivalent of 100 million barrels of a unique hydrocarbon properly known as Uintaite and commonly known as Gilsonite (Reg. Trade-mark).

For over one-half century previous to this time, Gilsonite reached the world markets in comparative trickle proportions of 25 to 75 thousand tons per year. It has been restricted principally because its source is located in the remote Uintah Basin of eastern Utah and western Colorado, the closest road-rail connection to this area being 120 miles away.

Description of Gilsonite

Gilsonite is a brittle, high-purity, solid hydrocarbon found in vertical fissures or veins varying in width from a few inches to 22 ft. The veins range in depth from a few feet to over 2,000 ft. They occur principally in the middle and lower Uintah sandstone formations of the Tertiary period and generally bottom in the Green River shales. The latter formations are probably the prime source of the Gilsonite.

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