Up to the roof of Enamelstrip Corp. in Allentown, Pa. last week clambered Lehigh County Judge John H. Diefenderfer. There he sniffed suspiciously at the company's chimney. For months, nearby residents had been after an injunction against Enamelstrip as a public nuisance for the stench given off by its ovens (which bake enamel on to metal at 500° Fahrenheit). Judge Diefenderfer, after several judicious sniffs, said: "I can't smell a thing."
At this, a spectator on the roof, Eugene J. Houdry, 60, smiled proudly. In the late 1930s French-born Inventor Houdry made himself a millionaire, and created one of the biggest single advances in the oil industry's history, by his invention of the Houdry process of "catalytic cracking."* Now, Inventor Houdry had taken the stench out of Enamelstrip's ovens with some new catalytic magic performed in the company's chimneys.
The results, reported Enamelstrip's General Manager Arthur E. Uhleen, are almost too good to believe. The original purpose, to eliminate odors and other pollution, proved to be merely incidental to a big increase in the whole plant's efficiency. Not only odors but energy in the form of heat was going out the chimney. Houdry's catalytic units are capturing and saving it, so that Enamelstrip's gas bill has been cut by 90%.
More Energy. Houdry's process is quite simple. The catalytic units are arranged in layers in the chimneys, and each unit has 73 porcelain rods coated with a thin film (only .003 inch) of alumina and platinum alloy. This coating is the catalyst, which combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to burn up noxious wastes, and in so doing generates still greater heat.
This heat is channeled back to the original furnace and thus cuts down the use of fuel. The installation cost Enamelstrip $16,000, but fuel savings alone will pay this cost within six months. Enamelstrip, which was spending $3,000 a month on gas before the units were installed, is now spending only $300. Said Uhleen: "We're getting so much heat out of them that we're throwing a lot of it away. We plan to heat the whole plant with part of the excess."
Inventor Houdry has formed a company, Oxy-Catalyst Manufacturing Co., and rented a plant at Wayne, Pa. to turn out the catalytic units.
Less Smell. As for potential uses, Houdry thinks that his new catalytic process can clear the industrial smog from U.S. cities, enable notorious offenders (e.g., New York City's Consolidated Edison Co., which generates electricity from coal) to make immense savings in fuel. Moreover, the oil industry, which has to burn oil to generate the heat needed to refine petroleum, also can make big savings. Houdry estimates that a petroleum cat-cracking unit could save $320,000 a year in fuel by installing 12,000 of his units. Joseph N. Pew's Sun Oil Co., one of Houdry's original partners in his cat-cracking, is now installing the new Houdry process at a cracking unit in Marcus Hook, Pa. Houdry himself thinks one of his biggest potential markets is in the 5,700,000 home oil burners in the U.S. By the use of six of his units (eventual cost: $30) he estimates the burners could be made 100% efficient, save up to 40% of their annual fuel consumption.