Dry Ice from Carbon Dioxide, 1930’s

Walking across a little log footbridge over Emigrant creek, pausing a moment to see the carbon dioxide gas bubbling incessantly from the tumbling stream, may in time -not too distant- become a mere memory to the hundreds who have visited Buckhorn lodge near the foot of the Greensprings mountain. Human power will probably harness the gas beds beneath the stream and its banks, necessarily removing the quaint bridge and its familiar surroundings.


Wealth, estimated at $2,000 per 24 hours that has been escaping in the form of gas may be realized materially if plans are completed for establishing a dry- ice plant at the resort. Active development was started about a month ago, although tests have been made over a two-year period.


Due to the exceptional value of such a product, action has been taken by Medford people interested in the development. A well has been drilled down 100 feet at the side of the creek for “mining” the product to be made into commercial ice.


Plans have been completed, however, for sinking the well 25 feet deeper, [please see editors footnote at the end] according to those in charge, whereby the supply of gas available is expected to be doubled, increasing the daily output from five tons, as now shown by tests, to 10 tons.


Dry ice is compressed or solid carbon dioxide 109.3 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit, said to be 15 times more efficient than ordinary ice. When the gas is “not flowing”, it registers about 60 degrees F., but when “flowing”, due to expansion from enormous compression in the ground, a sub-zero condition is created.


From the springs at Buckhorn lodge, which is operated by Mr. and Mrs. C. W. McGrew, tests have been made by the natural gas investigation division of the federal bureau of mines, chemists, chemical engineers, and dry ice company officials, showing favorable reports from the samples.


The well, sunk 100 feet, is filled within five feet of the top with water, but the gas bubbles constantly above the opening. Monday morning Mr. and Mrs. McGrew bailed the water down 20 feet and the blue gas shot several feet above the ground, making a roaring noise, audible throughout the resort, they reported.


Parties in charge of the work stated that if the water could be removed to a lower depth, the pressure from the gas would probably keep the well free from water. The opening is stopped by an eight-inch gate. The greatest expense in converting the gas supply into the dry-ice product, would be the cost of erecting a compressor, Mr. McGrew stated.
Last Tuesday tests were made in compressing the gas into dry ice, and the experiment proved successful, even though the tests were made with the 95 feet of water in the well. The flow of gas registered by the meter 23,000 cubic feet in 24 hours.


Between 10 and 11 cubic feet of the CO2 gas are required to make one cubic foot of the dry ice, which is now obtained in Medford at a cost of 20 cents per pound from Portland. Mr. McGrew expressed the belief that after the compressor had been installed, the ice could be supplied in Medford at approximately a cent a pound.


Development of such a project in southern Oregon would revolutionize many industries. For so many uses have already been discovered for the gas. As such a small piece of the product (which does not melt, but evaporates) is required to cool a comparatively large area, the new ice has been considered ideal for shipping of fruit across the continent.
Mr. McGrew related an incident where one carload of pears was shipped from Medford to New York last season, packed in the dry ice, and a saving of 18 hours in transit was recorded, as there were no delays necessitated by icing. Only 600 pounds of the dry ice was used, where ordinarily 3600 pounds of common ice is required, he said. The lesser amount of ice increased the space available for fruit tonnage.


Mr. McGrew carried out a similar test on a smaller scale, whereby six ripe Bartlett pears were placed in the gas for a six months period. He reported them as being in as solid a condition at the end of that time as when stored.


Editor’s footnote:

The well was drilled 25 feet deeper as planned, however the carbon dioxide gas flow drastically decreased and was replaced by an artesian well. After heated discussions it was decided that the previous amount of CO2 obtained would be acceptable and a lead plug was inserted into the well to stop the flow of water. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on ones perspective, the lead plug stopped everything and the project was abandoned.