The Enterprise, White Salmon, WA., June 18, 1937, page 7
KLICKITAT PLANT PRODUCES FIVE TONS DRY ICE DAILY
Mineral Springs Along Klickitat River Source of Amazing New Product
A mile or so north of the town of Klickitat, on the Klickitat
river, is located a dry ice manufacturing plant which is increasing its business
from year to year. There, is located one of the few natural sources of dry
Dry ice is nothing more, or less, than solidified carbon dioxide, a colorless, non-poisonous gas. One pound of gas makes one pound of ice. Its temperature averages 109 degrees below zero, as against a 32 degrees above of water ice.
A case of solid carbon dioxide looks like packed snow, but, unlike water ice, it doesn't melt; it sublimes, that is, it passes directly from a solid to its original gaseous state without leaving a pool, or puddle. This accounts for the mysterious disappearance of the small pieces enclosed with a carton of ice cream one takes home from a grocery store or soda fountain.
In the fall of 1931, that Klickitat Mineral springs, as it was then known -- 1116 acres of land bordering the river, the surface of it punctures by dozens of mineral springs and gaseous fumeroles (gas even bubbles from the river itself) - was acquired, on a 99-year lease, from the Langdon estate by R.B. Newbern of Wichita, Kansas, a nationally known expert on gases.
Long before the coming of the whiteman to the northwest, the Klickitat Indians used the clay and mineral water for medicinal purposes. They found the former efficacious for skin diseases, and the latter for internal troubles. "Klickitat," as they named the springs, means "pure water."
Modern science has demonstrated that the gas is pure also - the only natural carbon dioxide in the country which doesn't need to be subjected to some purifying process before it is made into "ice."
The geologic aspects of the region are most interesting. Of nature's laboratory deep under the surface of the earth, Harold E. Culver, supervisor of geology, the Washington State College, says:
"It may be assumed from facts obtainable on the subject that there still is volcanic activity such as normally attends the dying out of a series of eruptions, which have characterized both Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, and these would account for the expulsion of pure CO2 in their vicinity."
"The question," he goes on to say, "of how long the supply will continue, is one the old philosophers would have enjoyed speculating on. So far as we can surmise from the geology of the area, the springs with their large supplies of gas have been coming up for a very long time. A thousand years would be a conservative estimate. Ten thousand years is more likely to be the right figure."
The gas is conveyed from the wells to the ice plant by pipe lines, where it is dried in a dehydrator to remove excess moisture. From the dehydrator it passes to the first stage compressor at atmospheric temperature, and here is reduced to a pressure of 151 pounds to the square inch.
At this point, artificial cooling reduces the temperature to 48 below zero, which allows a second-stage compressor to reduce the gas to a liquid. This liquid gas is then sprayed into a snow chamber and by the process of quick expansion is reduced to a temperature of 109 degrees below zero.
The "snow" is then pounded by a hydraulic ram into white cakes of smoking ice, 10x10x15 inches in size and weighing more than 80 pounds per cake.
Which all may sound rather involved to the layman, but in reality is a simple process. The results are nothing short of miraculous! - when the chamber is opened, presto! instead of invisible carbon dioxide a great glistening snow-white cube of ice! The cake is so cold it would freeze the fingers if one should hold it more than a few seconds.
The Klickitat plant produces at the present time about five tons a day.
As to efficiency of dry ice as a refrigerant, an article in Fortune Magazine, 1932, says, "A cubic foot of dry ice, changing from solid to gas, absorbs twice as much heat as a cubic foot of water ice returning from ice to water, and the large volume of gas formed in the process is cold, inert, heavier than air and heat-resisting. The blanketing effect of the cold gas is itself such a potent cooling agent that dry ice may be not twice, but ten times as efficient as water ice. Because of small bulk and light weight in any kind of refrigeration transport."
This prophecy has come true. Today many freight and express cars and trucks are being equipped and insulated to the requirements of dry-ice refrigeration.
Oysters, milk and meat may be safely shipped across the continent in dry-iced express cars. The shipping of such delicate fruits as peaches and strawberries by dry ice is still in an experimental stage. While the carbon dioxide gas in insulated carriers acts as a germ destroyer on meats, and hence is a preservative, it tends to spoil the flavor of perishable vegetables and fruits. However, methods of combating this are being developed, which, it is hoped, will obivate the trouble.
Right now, dairy companies are the biggest largest consumers of dry ice, with breweries and bottling works running them a close second.
Among other uses for the product, is that of plumbers for freezing water mains, as a substitute for liquid air in the radio industry, as a fumigant mixed with ethylene oxide and sometimes carbon bisulphide, temperature controlled in dough mixing in bakeries, embalming, and, in some instances in the transportation of flowers.
Motorists traveling across desert have found it a boon; a small cake placed in a closed car cools the interior comfortably.
Carbon dioxide wells near Niland and Mundo, southern California, supply Los Angeles, Yuma, Phoenix and Imperial Valley points. Utah, Colorado and New Mexico likewise have tappable sources. Otherwise the dry ice is manufactured from gas devices of lime and coke factories.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer