sasol1_317224806_std.jpgIn the city of Louisiana, Missouri, there are, located by the river, plants which have quite a history. They are still located there presently, under different operations. The plants were used to create synthetic fuels during and after World War II. Both plants were commisioned by the U.S. government to aid in a rising fuel crisis developing with the war times and post war “celebration”. Their run was short, cut down by the federal government and mainly the gasoline and oil industries who were losing business.

The first of the plants, a coal to gasoline facility, was a synthetic ammonia plant the army lent to the Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program enacted by the U.S. government during the war. It used the Bergius process. Developed in 1913 by Freidrich Bergius, this converted bituminous coal directly into liquid petroleum. This process was extremely efficient, and was used extensively by Germany before and during World War II. There are no plants that currently use this process as its research was shut down in 1953 by “big oil” lobbying for its detraction from government funded research. By 1949, this plant produced about 200 barrels of oil daily.

The second plant was built in 1948 to accommodate experimentation of a new process. This process was called the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. This was developed in the 1920’s to “compete” with the Bergius process. Instead of converting the coal directly into liquid fuel, it first converts the solid coal into a gaseous set of reactants, then converts that into the synthetic fuel. This process is a bit more expensive, and slightly less efficient than the Bergius process, thus resulting in the closing of the plant in 1953. The closure was not just caused by the oil lobbying, but also the plants poor production of fuel. During its run, the plant only produced around 40,000 gallons of fuel overall.

During this time, the U.S. government started to develop ways to try and better their scientific understanding of these topics. One of the most secretive was called Operation Paperclip. In this program, the U.S. tried to bring over Nazi scientists from Germany after the war. These scientists had had enough knowledge to almost completely win the war. At first, they were just being brought in to be debriefed, and sent back to Germany. But after these interviews, the military realized that the extent of knowledge these scientists had showed was too valuable to be wasted. The only thing stopping the military: the law. In America at the time, it was strongly enforced that Nazi officials were to be left out of the country, regardless of how much valuable information they knew. The problem was that at least two-thirds of the scientists were sworn to Nazism.

Despite of this, the military asked to bring these scientists in to work for America. In 1946 Truman approved “Project Paperclip”. Unfortunately, he demanded that no committed Nazi shall be brought in. The War Department sent in the first scientists’ applications, only to come back showing that all the scientists were “ardent Nazis.” This angered the leader of the operation, Bosquet Wev, with him expressing that the U.S. would be better off to approve these scientists’ visas without regard to their Nazi sympathies, for it would be a matter of national security to let them back to Germany, exposed to our enemies.

To get out of this situation, Wev decided to just overlook it. He had the director of the program rewrite the scientists’ dossiers, eliminating any evidence that proved them of anything related to Nazism. This was a bold move that could have cost Wev his job… had President Truman had any idea of this activity going on. Truman denied all claims of this activity during conferences such as Potsdam, most likely rustling the Soviets distrust for America, perhaps even enhancing the Cold War. By 1955, there were over 700 German scientists who had been approved of citizenship and who began working in high positions in the scientific community, many of which had been committed Nazis and who had performed many experiments, even on humans.

Seven of these scientists were sent over and employed right here in Louisiana, Missouri. They worked in both of the plants, and helped to develop and perfect the processes which were used to create the synthetic fuels. During the war in Germany, these fuels were used extensively, making up about 15% of the military fuel consumption, and up to 30% of public automotive fuel. In these plants, they produced synthetic gasoline, as well as synthetic diesel, both of which were priced similarly to gasoline and diesel of the time, as well as being much higher quality than the fuels of the time. These fuels were tested and refined until funding for the plants in Louisiana was cut in 1953 and the plants were returned to the Army. After the oil crisis in the 70’s, funding was restarted for these programs, but the plants were not engaged in any of the research for in 1985, Reagan signed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which effectively ended Synthetic Liquid Fuels Program. After 40 years, the estimated amount of research compiled to costing up to $8 billion.