29 May 2008

Ever Since I Was A Kid Gasometers Have Blown My Mind

These days gasometers are nearly extinct but driving along in the backseat of my dads car when I was a kid I'd always see them on the side of the road and wonder what they were and what they did.

It was explained to me that they were basically big balloons that expanded when they were filled with air and deflated when they weren't. Which, looking back, was probably the most uncomplicated explanation my parents could have given their inquisitive 5 year old son as I doubt I would've been able to comprehend the importance of "storing natural gas near atmospheric pressure at ambient temperatures" at that point in life.

"OK", I thought, fair enough, "But a balloon made out of bricks?!" I never truly understood how this big, round building could rise and fall with such elasticity.

Gasometers were a British invention from about 180 years ago. They quickly caught on in the states and across the world as an effective means of storing large amounts of gas at low pressure. Gasometers were mainly used for balancing purposes (making sure gas pipes can be operated within a safe range of pressures) rather than for storing actual gas for later use.

Gasholders held a large advantage over other methods of storage. They were the only storage method which kept the gas at "district pressure". Once the District Low Pressure Switch falls and the booster fans come on, the gas in these holders could arrive at homes, being used in a very short space of time. Gas is stored in these throughout the day when little gas is being used. At about 5pm there is a great demand for gas and the holder will come down, supplying "the district" or the grid or whatever. "District" is a Euro thing. Its basically like a zip code or a neighborhood and in some cases are equivalent to "states" and in other cases are smaller and sometimes larger. "Districts are a type of administrative division of some countries, managed by a local government". Can we move on?

OK, so thats great, we know gasometers are used for safely storing large amounts of gas but it still doesn't explain how those bricks act like a big fucking balloon.

Then I found this:
"The most recent gasometers, built 16 years ago, abide by the same, basic mechanics - as gas is fed in from a pipeline it pushes up each of the individual storage chambers one-by-one, to accommodate the exact amount. The more gas, the bigger the holder - hence the name. The rim of each chamber is sealed by water and with no room for air inside, the holder prevents gas from igniting."
So its more like a telescopic layercake made of bricks and less like a big, happy, gas balloon. You know those telescopic batons the cops use that unfold or your old car radio antennae, its kinda like that. Each section or level slides inside each other for easier storage when not being used.

Theres actually a town in Vienna, Austria called "Gasometer" where they've turned a bunch of old gasometers into apartment buildings.

(click pic to enlarge)

Just kidding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent scroll down.