Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

For many years, America stood as a beacon of industry. From the age of the Industrial Revolution to the mid 20th century, the United States was in a state of constant growth and production. These days, however, various factors – including automation and globalization – have created a much different industrial landscape. Where there were once high-output factories, now stand empty buildings; monuments to a time long past.

While America is still an industrial powerhouse, our focus has shifted in the past few decades. In this article, we want to provide some insight into the history and changes that have occurred. We also want to take a closer look at some of the most captivating abandoned sites across the country. Join us on an adventure through time.

 

America’s Industrial Revolution: A Primer

When we talk about the United States as an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse, most of the growth and change happened in the years following the Civil War. From about the mid-1870s, the country was exploding with innovation and new industries that were unheard of decades prior. This revolution would shift the landscape and populations of the nation dramatically.

Some examples of monumental shifts during the late 1800s included:

 

Electricity

We take it for granted today, but electricity only existed in one’s imagination. That is, until 1882, when Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, which provided incandescent light bulbs and the power to use them. Although progress was slow initially, once it caught on the country (and the world) would never be the same. Edison Electric eventually morphed into what we now know as General Electric.

 

Transportation

For centuries, horses and wagons were the preferred methods to get from point A to point B. However, during and after the Civil War, trains became an even more integral part of modern life. They helped the North ship men and supplies to the front, and they were an essential component of Westward Expansion.

At the turn of the century, automobiles became more affordable, which spelled the end of the horse. In 1908, when the Ford Model T was invented, there were only about 200,000 cars on the road. By 1927, that number exploded to 15 million.

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

 

City Living

As factories and industrial centers became more and more prevalent, they needed a massive workforce to keep the machinery running. In the early and mid-1800s, most Americans lived in rural areas and towns. As manufacturing grew, more citizens started moving to cities, thanks to better work opportunities. Even today, the majority of Americans live in big cities rather than small towns or suburbs.

 

America’s Manufacturing Decline – 2000 to Present

The boom of the late 1800s lasted for over a century, even through the Great Depression and two World Wars. In fact, one could argue that both World War I and II helped make America even more of an industrial powerhouse, as military manufacturing helped create jobs and opportunities. Also, since America itself was not ravaged by the war (unlike European countries), it was able to grow at an unprecedented rate.

However, that all changed with computers. For most of the 20th century, manufacturing output remained stable, growing at a rate comparable with the national GDP. However, since 2000, the country has been hemorrhaging jobs and losing factories to other countries like China.

Although the US started becoming more efficient during this period, job loss and the shuttering of various plants and manufacturing hubs have only gotten worse. While it’s impossible to find one specific reason, here are a few of the factors that contributed to this decline.

 

Globalization

As countries around the world start developing and growing, they are beginning to have larger workforces. China and India have become powerhouses in recent years, thanks to cheaper workers driving more profitable growth. Many businesses, both in the US and elsewhere, are taking advantage of the cost savings by building materials and products overseas and then shipping them back to the United States.

Not only that, but because these countries have cheap labor, products that they make internally are also more cost-effective for consumers. Why would people pay twice as much for something just because it was made locally? As long as the product quality is similar, there’s no reason to pay more.

Abandoned Industrial Sites of America

 

Automation

While global trade deficits are a substantial factor in America’s industrial decline, a focus on automation and robotics has been as much (if not more) of a killer. In many industries, factories can produce more efficiently with fewer workers. Those that do stay behind are highly skilled engineers, programmers, and technicians – a far cry from the uneducated masses that powered Henry Ford’s automotive empire.

 

Shifting Demographics

Finally, America’s industrial decline can be attributed to a changing mentality among modern workers. Before, it was a good idea to work at a factory for 20-30 years until you could retire. The money was stable, and one could provide a decent life for a family.

Today, more of the workforce is looking for jobs and careers that offer more than a steady paycheck. Workers want value from their efforts, which means doing more than pressing a button or attaching parts on an assembly line. As demographics shift, so do the areas of growth. While manufacturing is declining, other industries are booming, such as:

  • Healthcare – The healthcare sector has experienced massive growth in recent years. An aging population and improvements in medicine are driving factors.
  • Technology – it’s no secret that the US is a hotspot for tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Silicon Valley is the most noteworthy area, but cities like Seattle, Phoenix, and Portland are all booming, thanks to investments from the tech sector.
  • Nondurable Manufacturing – while America doesn’t make many consumer goods, the country is thriving in the nondurable sector (products with a short shelf-life). Some examples of nondurable products include gasoline (thanks to fracking), clothing, and electricity.

 

Abandoned Industrial Sites in the US

To help us understand the gravity of the situation, we want to take a closer look at some of the buildings and sites that have succumbed to these mitigating factors. Many of these locations are related to manufacturing or industry, but some of them have just become victims of shifting populations. Here is a taste of what abandoned America looks like.

 

Bethlehem Steel Lackawanna Plant – New York

At the turn of the 20th century, steel and iron manufacturing was at its peak in the United States. Most of the demand for these raw materials came from massive construction projects, such as the Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge. World War I and II also created tons of demand for iron and steel for the war effort.

Lackawanna Steel was the largest manufacturer in the world in the 1920s, and this plant thrived for many decades. What brought its decline, however, was an increase in environmental regulations and taxes. The business owners decided to move out of New York for these reasons, and the site has sat unused since 1982.

 

Buffalo Color Corporation – New York

Color is such an integral part of modern life that it can sometimes be challenging to wrap your mind around where they all originate. Everything from clothing to food needs dyes and colors to make them pop, and one of the largest plants in the world was in Buffalo, New York.

For many years, this abandoned site was part of the National Aniline and Chemical Company, which started in the 1880s. Once again, both World Wars contributed to the factory’s success, as clothing and supplies for the war effort required dyes and other chemicals.

In the 60s, relaxed trade deals allowed American businesses to import cheaper varieties from other countries, and National Aniline started to slow down. This particular site was changed to Buffalo Color Corps in 1976, with its specialty being indigo dye for blue jeans. Unfortunately, cheaper Chinese versions of jeans flooded the market shortly afterward, spelling doom for the company. By 2003, this plant shut its doors for good.

 

Packard Motor Car Company – Michigan

We could populate this list solely with plants and factories currently rotting in Michigan’s former automotive empire, but we’ll focus our attention on one in particular – the Packard Motor Car Plant. This impressive site was built in 1903 and was the most advanced factory for its time. The site covers 35 acres and has over three million square feet of space, making it one of the largest auto plants in the world.

When it opened, Packard specialized in high-end cars for wealthy individuals. During World War II, the factory helped make engines for the P51 Mustang fighter planes. After the war, however, consumer demand shifted away from luxury vehicles to more affordable middle-class offerings. Packard struggled to keep up, especially against heavy competition from Ford, GM, and Chrysler (aka the “Big Three”). The plant shut down in 1957.

 

Chemung Mine – California

Along with auto plants, gold mines and towns are other prevalent victims of the cycle of boom and bust over the last century. Chemung sat on the outskirts of a small city in California, and during its peak, it was highly regarded as a producer of fine gold. The mine was built in the early 1900s and opened in 1909. The main structure itself was torn down and rebuilt numerous times, and various legal troubles forced it to close for good in 1938.

 

R.J. Loock Auto Parts – Maryland

This site is relatively unique in that it was both a manufacturing hub as well as a retail storefront and parts distributor. R.J. Loock was a family business that started in 1913 and operated for almost a full 100 years. According to locals, the last heir to the Loock company died in 2001, and with no one in line to take over, the business shuttered for good.

The site was abandoned quickly, as many parts and supplies are still sitting unused on the factory and storefront floors. Although the area was vacated in the relatively modern age of 2001, most of its remnants echo decades past.

 

Pittsburgh Post Gazette – Pennsylvania

When talking about industries in decline, you can’t forget to mention print newspapers. The internet is a free and ubiquitous resource of information, meaning that print media is still facing a slow, agonizing death.

The Pittsburgh Gazette was founded in 1786, although this particular site was built in 1927. The Gazette continues to this day, although as a shadow of its former self. This specific site was home to three floors of printing presses and numerous offices. Since the paper consolidated and moved to another location in 2015, this building has been empty and unused, waiting for renovation and a second life for some up-and-coming industry.

 

Birdsboro Steel – Pennsylvania

Like Bethlehem Steel in New York, this area was a crucial component in the growth and prosperity of the new American empire. However, Birdsboro goes back even further than Bethlehem, all the way to the country’s roots. The original forge was built in 1740 and provided pig iron for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Throughout the decades, Birdsboro would become a steel manufacturing powerhouse, continuing its tradition of military armament through both World Wars.

Unfortunately, the decline of manufacturing in the 1970s, thanks to more prevalent union strikes and rising imports, spelled the beginning of the end for Birdsboro. By the end of the 80s, the plant shut down for good. After it closed, the plant became an auto scrapyard, and currently houses hundreds of rotting vehicles across the massive site.

 

Pemco International Corp – Maryland

This factory was the original site of the Pemco International Corporation, which specialized in making glass and porcelain. The company’s founder was a pioneer in the porcelain enameling industry, as he discovered a way to add the material to iron surfaces. Some of the most notable products to come out of this plant included household appliances, outdoor grills, and roofing tiles (such as those for hotel chain Howard Johnson).

Environmental issues started creating problems for the company, as the plant regularly dumped toxic chemicals in the surrounding area. The site was shut down in 2006 as the company moved closer to Mexico and currently sits unused. Unfortunately, the area is still highly toxic, so it’s unlikely that any developments will come along soon.

 

Resources:

https://www.abandonedamerica.us/business-and-industry

https://www.upjohn.org/research-highlights/american-manufacturing-decline

https://www.nps.gov/edis/learn/kidsyouth/the-electric-light-system-phonograph-motion-pictures.htm

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/042915/5-industries-driving-us-economy.asp

http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/riseind/

https://qz.com/1269172/the-epic-mistake-about-manufacturing-thats-cost-americans-millions-of-jobs/

 

Posted in Abandoned America, America, History, Industrial Revolution, Ruins | Leave a comment

World War II Ruins in Germany

Are you a World War II buff? If that’s the case, Germany has some of the most famous sites and ruins of any country amongst the axis and the allies. Many of the monuments, facilities, and landmarks left by Nazi Germany and the Third Reich were bombed and destroyed during the war, and many of these ugly reminders of the war were later destroyed. Even so, many key landmarks are still standing, to serve as a reminder to the German people and the world of one of the most devastating wars humankind has ever witnessed.

 

1. Berlin: Vorbunker and Fuhrerbunker

These are famously known as the places that Hitler took refuge during the war. He eventually ended up living here toward the end of the war. These bunkers were designed to serve as a protective air-raid bunker for Hitler, as well as his close family and personal guard.

Though the exact site of these bunkers has been redeveloped into a residential housing site, a memorial stands to mark the previous location of the bunkers that the Fuhrer sought refuge in at the end of the war. The Fuhrerbunker was actually the location that Hitler shot himself and committed suicide at the end of the war. If you visit today, you can see a sign that explains the layout of the bunkers and the significance that the bunkers played in the history of the war.

 

2. Berlin: Holocaust Memorial

Some of the most famous and most visited ruins and memorials from World War II serve as reminders from the brutality of the Holocaust. The ruthless Third Reich was responsible for the death of 6 million jews in the Holocaust, over the course of the second world war.

The Holocaust memorial in Berlin is one of the few memorials that commemorate the senseless, discriminatory slaughter of the Jewish people. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a site that spans nearly 5 acres. It is a beautiful yet solemn memorial that was designed by the brilliance of engineer Buro Happold and architect Peter Eisenman, serving as a tribute to all Jewish victims in the Holocaust, as well as their families.

 

3. Berlin: Soviet War Memorial

 The Soviet War Memorial in Berlin was erected to honor the fallen Soviet soldiers of the battle of Berlin. The battle took place in 1945, near the end of the war. The statue at the memorial really evokes the emotions of sadness from the battle and from the war as a whole.

There is a statue at the memorial of a Soviet soldier, holding a sword and a German child. The soldier is standing over a shattered swastika. The area leading up to the monument and the statue itself is lined with 16 stone vaults or sarcophagi to represent the 16 Republics of the Soviet Union. Each of these 16 vaults have military scenes etched into them, along with quotes from Joseph Stalin that are written in both German and Russian.

 

4. Dachau: Memorial and Museum

 Dachau was one of the first concentration camps constructed under the rule of Nazi Germany. Dachau was created to detain political prisoners from Austria and Germany, along with thousands of Jewish prisoners.

In the 12 years that Dachau was open (from 1933 to 1945), over 200,000 prisoners passed through the camp, and nearly 32,000 people were killed in the concentration camp. In the 1960s, Former Prisoners of Dachau-East assembled to create a memorial for prisoners that had been through or were killed at the concentration camp.

The memorial in Dachau was redesigned in 2003. How it is laid out, the memorial actually follows the path that new arrival prisoners walked when they were processed into the camp. Two of the original barracks were actually rebuilt to commemorate those that were killed in Dachau, and one of them outlines the entire history of the concentration camp.

 

5. Nuremberg: Rally Grounds of the Nazi Party

 Nuremberg is the location of the Nuremberg Trials. The site and the event where the judges of the allied powers passed made 22 major Nazi war criminals stand trial. 12 of which were sentenced to death for their atrocities during the war.

Nuremberg is also the site of the Nazi Party Rally grounds. This assembly site spans 11 square kilometers, and were created to host rallies of the nazi party. Six of these rallies took place on the Nuremberg Rally Grounds between the years of 1933 and 1938. Pieces of some historic buildings are still standing on the site of the rally grounds, and many of them have been preserved to serve as a memorial from the war.

 

6. Hamburg: St. Nicholas’ Church

 There are many churches dedicated to St. Nicholas, around the globe, but the one in Hamburg, Germany is unique for several reasons. The first being that it was actually at one time, was the tallest building in the world for the two brief years between 1874 and 1876.

If it was built so long ago, what was the significance of this church during World War II.

The pilots of the Allied Forces actually used this prominent tower of the church as a marker for orienting themselves in the city. This was critical for them during their air raids and strikes on Hamburg, during the war. As you can imagine, the church sustained heavy damage from the bombs that the allied forces dropped in the area. Parts of the roof of the church collapsed, but even with the extensive bombing of the area, the walls and the tower somehow remained standing.

The tower and some of the salvageable walls around the church have been preserved to commemorate the war.

 

7. Obersalzberg: Eagle’s Nest

 The “Kehlsteinhaus” as it is known in German, or the Eagle’s Nest for the English translation, was less of a tactical position for the Third Reich and more of a recreational area. The Eagle’s Nest was actually given to HItler as a 50th birthday gift. It became a retreat and vacation home that he would use to entertain and host guests and their friends.

The Eagle’s Nest has been preserved and is fully standing, unlike many other memorials, monuments, and ruins from the war. It has beautiful views of the land and mountains around Berchtesgaden, and today the Eagle’s Nest is open to the public, complete with a tourist information site, a beer garden, and even a restaurant.

 

8. Colditz: Colditz Castle

Germany and other regions throughout Europe are known for their architecture, and specifically their castles. Though Colditz castle is another key World War II location in Germany, the construction of the castle actually started in 1158, after Thimo the first was made Lord of Colditz by Emperor Frederick Barbossa. Throughout the Middle Ages, the castle was actually used as a lookout post for German Emperors.

When World War II broke out, the Nazi’s converted Colditz castle into a high-security prison. This prison was used to detain high profile officers and war prisoners who they believed would be at a high risk for escaping. The castle is located on a rocky area, above the River Mulde which made the Nazi’s believe that this castle would make for s difficult prison to escape from. Conversely, this prison location held the highest number of successful escape attempts throughout the course of the war.

9. Nordhausen: Mittelbau Dora Memorial

 Mittelbau is another World War II concentration camp site that is nestled near Nordhausen, in Thuringia. Though Mittelbau was only established as a subcamp in 1943, it made a reputation for itself during the war as one of the cruelest and most ruthless concentration camps in Germany. Just a year later, it was established as a main camp, with several other subcamps around it. One of the major prisoner populations of this camp were Slavic people, which the Nazi ideology marked as less than human. The Nazi prison guards would regularly work the prisoners through excruciating 14 hour days, wihtout access to adequate food, beds, water, and hygiene. For that reason, roughly a third of the prisoner population of Mittelbau died.

By the early 1950s, most of the main prison camp had been demolished, but locals of Nordhausen began redesigning the area around the crematorium to make a memorial and cemetery.

 

10. Merzig: Besseringen B-Werk

 The Besseringen B-Werk is unique in that it is the only completely reserved Nazi Bunker out of 18,000 total bunkers that were known as the Siegfried Line. The Siegfried Line served the Nazis as a 400 mile defense system to protect themselves during the war. The Siegfried Line where the Besseringen B-Werk stands consists of a network of 32 war bunkers. The reason that they put “B” in the name is due to the fact that the bunker was built to construction standards with a thickness rating of ‘B.’

After the war, the site was used as a dump site for rubbish and garbage, but in 2005 the country reopened the bunker and redesigned it to include a museum that is open to the public.

 

11. Peenemunde Military Test Site

 During the war, the Peenemunde Military Testing Site became one of the most advanced technological facilities in the world. This is the site where Germany and the Nazis developed and tested various types of guided missiles. One of which was the V-2 missile that they fired into space in 1942. The Nazi’s goal with this military testing site was to develop and leverage advanced weapons technology to exercise superiority over military foes.

After the technologies were developed, the construction of the rockets were mostly done by inmates, slave laborers, and prisoners of the concentration camps. Though this facility sustained frequent attacks and bombings from the allies during the war, the museum for this historic site was built in the power station of this weapons development and testing site.

 

12. Hurtgen Forest

 Though this is more of a geographic location than it is ruins that were left from the war, Hurtgen Forest carries the weight of some considerable historical significance. The battle that took place in Hurtgen Forest was the longest recorded battle that took place in Germany during World War II. The battle spanned months, starting in September of 1944 and ending in December of that year. The US First Army suffered from the battle, with a total of 33,000 soldiers that were either killed or wounded. Some records estimate that number is closer to 55,000. The Germans lost roughly 28,000 soldiers in this arduous battle. In the forest, you will find a military cemetery and a monument that was actually built in memory of a German lieutenant, that escorted a wounded American Soldier safely through a minefield during the battle.

 

13. Munich: Konigsplatz

 The Konigplatz is yet another location in Germany that the Nazi Party used to amass their rallies. Originally, the Nazis had constructed two temples that honored and housed the remains of 16 Nazis that had died during the war. The Nazi Party believed them to be martyrs for their efforts. The US Army demolished both of these after the war, and the only things that are left standing are the platforms that the temples were built on.

 

14. Munich: Feldherrnhalle

 The history of the Feldherrnhalle is interesting. It was the site of a Nazi coup against Bavaria back in 1923. During a brief fight (Known as the Beer Hall Putsch), 16 members of the Nazi party were killed. The same 16 that were housed in the temples in the Konigsplatz. When HItler in the Nazis took power in 1933, he turned the hall into a memorial to those Nazis that were killed in the Beer Hall Putsch.

 

 

Resources:  

  1. https://www.escapehere.com/destination/10-significant-world-war-ii-sites-to-visit-in-germany/
  2. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/top-10-wwii-sites-visit-germany.html

 

 

 

Russian World War II War Memorial in Berlin – November, 1989

Russian World War II War Memorial in Berlin – November, 1989

 

East German Soldier guarding Berlin Wall – November 1989

East German Soldier guarding Berlin Wall – November 1989

 

Berlin Wall a few days before it’s fall in November, 1989.

Berlin Wall a few days before it’s fall in November, 1989.

 

I took the above pictures when I happened to be in Berlin, November 1989 during the fall of the wall. It was an incredible experience!

I took a taxi to Brandenburg Gate. There were news crews with cameras on cranes and large crowds. The wall itself was much bigger than I thought. Near the Brandenburg Gate, the wall was maybe 10 feet wide. There were armed East German soldiers marching on top of the wall.

I recall that looking from the West into the East was like looking at a color photograph, then looking an older black and white version of the same photograph. East Berlin looked to be a cold, grey, dark and foreboding place.

In West Berlin I saw familiar looking cars, Mercedes Benz, Volvo and other western European cars. The East Germans were being allowed to drive into West Berlin and I recall that the East German cars looked and sounded like small toys compared to the cars of West Berlin.

I was able to walk up to the wall, which by now was covered in graffiti, and touch it. So, I can say that I was able to touch the Berlin Wall as it was coming down.

I had nearly forgotten about my brief visit with history in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate until I came across the old photographs. What was my one twinge of regret? I did not bring home a piece of the Berlin Wall. It would have been very easy. Kids were taking sledgehammers to the wall and there were small pieces available and this was before TSA security at airports.

But that is okay – I have my memories and the photographs of my day with history.

 

 

Posted in Germany, World War II, WWII | Leave a comment

World War II Ruins in France

World War II Ruins in France

For the history enthusiast, there’s nothing quite like the thrill you get when you visit an important historical spot in person. It’s one thing to read about history being made; it’s another to be there, to stand where those others once stood and relive those past days.

For many, war-related ruins and monuments are especially important. This is because these historical points mark places where history didn’t just happen — it was shaped there as well! There are thousands of war-related ruins, geographical points, monuments and museums to visit across the globe, but World War II holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts due to its sheer size and importance.

In France, the memories of World War II are alive and well. For those history hounds hoping to visit this beautiful country there is much to see, do and learn. Below are some of the most important World War II ruins in France. To learn about them, we’ll move across the country, generally from west to east, talking about some of the most important points in each area of our visit. Let’s start out tour with what is undoubtedly the most famous beach in the annals of history:

 

Normandy

There’s probably no place in World War II lore that is as fabled or awe-inspiring as the beaches of Normandy. June 6, 1944 is rightly seen as one of the most important dates of the 20th Century, and thankfully this area of northwestern France pays homage to that history. The Normandy coast is littered with beaches that all played an important role in the Allies’ final push on D-Day, and one could spend a long time just touring this area. In fact, many people do.

Normandy is actually made up of several different beaches, from Utah Beach in the west to Sword Beach in the east. Each one of these beaches saw heavy fighting that day, and many carry the scars even decades later. All of them can be visited, but let’s focus on one in particular:

 

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach saw some of the heaviest fighting on D-Day, with a severely high death toll among Allied soldiers. Many troops drowned trying to make it onshore, and those that didthat did were very quickly gunned down by the entrenched German troops. Eventually, though, Omaha Beach fell to the Americans.

 

Pointe Du Hoc

It’s not a beach, but Pointe Du Hoc is a must-see for any Normandy visitor. Nowhere was the fighting more deadly than in this area. Allied troops were forced to scale 100-foot tall cliffs to capture German fortifications.

Today, a visitor can tour the area, which contains various points of interest. Many of the craters created during the bombardment are still very visible and give the visitor just an inkling of the devastation that occurred there that day. Erosion has started to claim this area, and efforts are underway to preserve this vital bit of history.

 

Calais

Just up the coast from Normandy is Calais, another coastal area that saw heavy German fortifications, as Hitler was convinced this is where the Allies would try to land. Because of this, massive forts and bunkers were built that can still be toured today.

 

Batterie Waldam

Batterie Waldam is a huge complex that really cannot be explored in one visit — unless that visit is stretched out over a couple of days! With over a mile of bunkers, tank traps and other defenses put in place, there are tons of things to explore here.

At Waldam the Germans built a huge, interlocking array of buildings and artillery that was clearly designed to turn the entire area into a death trap. Massive guns pointed both towards the coast as well as inland so that no matter where an attack came from, those at Waldam would be ready.

With the sheer amount of death and destruction that occurred at Normandy, it’s hard to think it could’ve been worse. Yet, looking at Waldam, it’s easy to see why Calais was skipped altogether — if the Allies had landed there, that day could have turned out very differently!

 

La Coupole

La Coupole was a bunker built on top of an old underground quarry. The original intent was to build a site to store and launch the fearsome V-2 rockets towards England, which sat right across the English Channel. Housing and other rooms were built, and were all put under a massive concrete dome. However, the German plans were thwarted here when the Allies began a strong bombing campaign during Operation Crossbow. The site was soon abandoned.

The site was captured in 1944 and partially destroyed. There it sat until 1997, when it was turned into a museum.

 

Paris

Moving inland, no tour of French World War II history is complete without a stop in Paris. Luckily, Paris was spared most of the fighting during the war, having fallen early without putting up a real resistance. That being said, there aren’t many actual “ruins” in this city. However, there are a few spots of note.

 

Le Meurice

Le Meurice is a hotel that was built in 1815 and is still active today. This hotel is the height of modern luxury, going so far as to be designated as a “Palace Hotel” in 2011. It’s important for us, though, because during the war, from late 1940 through mid-1944, this hotel was taken over and used as the headquarters for the Nazi occupation in France. Visiting this hotel puts you right where some of the most famous names from German-occupied France made decisions that affected the lives of all of those living under German rule.

 

Fort Mont-Valerien

Fort Mont-Valerian was a fort long before the Nazi occupation, but it played an important role during the Nazi occupation. It was here that thousands of French citizens were imprisoned for various activities, and over 1,000 were executed by firing squad.

After the war ended, Charles de Gaulle consecrated the site as a public memorial, and it has remained so to this day.

 

Oradour-sur-Glane

Southwest of Paris lies what is probably the most heart-breaking and poignant World War II ruin in all of France — the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10, 1944 the fate of this village changed forever when a division of German troops arrived in response to what was basically no more than a rumour that a high-ranking German officer was being held captive in this tiny village.

Over the course of the next few hours, the entire village was slaughtered. The men were taken to various barns and sheds throughout the village, where they were all executed by machine gun. The women and children were rounded up and put in the village church, which was burned to the ground. In all, 642 men, women and children lost their lives. Only a small handful escaped.

That night, the village was partially destroyed until only part of it remained standing. Then, the German division left.

Today, the village has been rebuilt a few miles down the road, and the ruins still stand as a reminder of the atrocities that took place there. A museum stands close by, and the original site has been consecrated as a memorial.

Any visit to World War II France must include a visit to this sacred place.

 

The Maginot Line

Our last stop takes us all the way to France’s eastern border to a series of fortifications known as the Maginot Line. These bunkers were built in the years between World War I and II as an attempt to keep Germany from marching across the border. For that reason, these bunkers and forts were made to be strong, full of ammunition, soldiers and equipment ready to defend the country from invasion.

It was a good strategy, but it didn’t work. The problem was that France only built this line of defense along the southern stretch of its border. It didn’t build any along its border with Belgium, since Belgium was an ally. So, when Germany invaded and conquered Belgium, they were able to march into France without having to encounter these fortifications at all.

The remnants of the Maginot Line are still in place and can be visited all up and down the border. Bunkers such as Ouvrage Fermont and Ouvrage Galgenberg are just two examples of what you can encounter exploring this area.

These bunkers come in all sizes, from large, massive buildings that sprawl both above ground as well as below to tiny buildings that served more as lookouts than anything else. There is also an extensive network of underground tunnels that link much of the Maginot Line, giving you plenty of places to explore.

For the history lover, France offers a wealth of World War II sights that must be visited. The German occupation and eventual Ally liberation left a mark on this country that is still visible to this day, if you only know where to look.

World War II Ruins in France

 

 

Posted in France, History, Military, Ruins, World War II | Leave a comment

British Ruins of World War 2

British Ruins of World War 2

As the deadliest and most destructive conflict the world has ever seen, World War II serves as a reminder of what can happen when military giants decide to go head to head. Although it’s been over 70 years since the war ended, scars of the conflict remain to this day. Looking at these sites through a modern lens can give us a glimpse of what life was like under the constant threat of military action.

World War II was fought on many battlefronts, but today we’re going to focus our attention on Great Britain. The British Isles served as an instrumental staging area for Allied forces during the war so that they could launch the greatest offensive of all time to recapture occupied European territory.

We’re going to look at numerous ruins while diving into their history and importance during the war (and beyond). Step into our Wayback machine, and let’s see how World War II shaped a nation.

 

St. Margaret’s Beach Fortification

During the early years of the war, Nazi Germany was storming across Europe, finally reach Britain’s doorstep. Once France had succumbed to the Wehrmacht, it looked like the Germans would launch a full-scale invasion of the island nation. Afraid of what that could do for the war effort and the Allies (considering that the US hadn’t officially entered the conflict), Britain had to act.

Field Marshall William Edmund Ironside drafted a plan to protect England’s coastline with a series of tunnels, gun emplacements, minefields, and anti-tank obstacles. This network would be known as the “Coastal Crust,” and one site that remains to this day is the fortification at St. Margaret’s Beach.

Here you can see remnants of a tunnel system that was dug into the cliffside. Several pillboxes were installed within the rock to cover the beach from a potential invasion. The entrance to the tunnels was sealed years later, but intrepid explorers can access them from the gun turret.

Nearby, there is the St. Margaret’s Museum, which dives deeper into the strategic importance of the beach and how it played a part during the war. Dover was an important location for both the Allies and the Germans, and it will show up multiple times on this list.

 

The Secret Tunnels of Dover

Depending on which side you were on, the battle of Dunkirk was either a rousing success or a rousing success. Allow us to explain – as the Nazis marched into France, Britain and other allied troops tried to fend off the Blitzkrieg. Unfortunately, the Germans were too well organized and equipped, forcing the Allies to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. Almost 350,000 men waited there for rescue while enemy forces neared closer and closer.

Unfortunately, although Britain has one of the finest navies in the world, most of it was occupied elsewhere. Not only that, but the British were still preparing for war, so they had massive personnel and equipment shortages at the time.

To help expedite the evacuation, hundreds of civilian boats were pressed into service, including pleasure yachts, lifeboats, tugboats, and others. Over 800 “little” ships arrived in Dunkirk to ferry the soldiers across the English Channel to Dover. These tunnels were dug into the white cliffs to help the men get off the beaches and back to civilization.

Both sides considered the battle a success. For the Germans, it meant driving British forces out of Europe, as well as capturing massive amounts of guns, vehicles, and other equipment left behind. For the British, they were able to recover several battalions worth of men, who would come in handy later during D-Day.

At this site, you can explore an exhibition recalling the events of the campaign, called Operation Dynamo.

 

Red Sands Fort

As the German Army started performing air raids on London and other English cities, they were able to use the Thames River as a guideline, particularly at night. To help protect the river and its surrounding environs, the British Army and Navy constructed a series of fortifications along the river’s estuaries.

These forts would be called Maunsell Forts, named after Guy Maunsell, the architect who designed them. There were four navy-style and four army-style structures constructed in strategic points throughout the estuary. One of the only ones currently accessible is the army-style fort at Red Sands.

The Red Sands fort is a series of seven towers, each connected by a metal walkway. Being an army-style structure meant that soldiers could man turrets on each of the six outer towers, watching for enemy boats and opening fire as necessary.

After the war, these forts became hubs for pirate radio stations in the 1960s, having been decommissioned in the late 50s. Currently, a nonprofit organization is trying to restore and preserve the Red Sands Fort for historical purposes.

 

Denge Sound Mirrors

War can inspire the most creative minds to build all kinds of impressive structures. However, while some of them can become instrumental in turning the tide of battle, others, like the Denge Sound Mirrors, can become obsolete, serving as a monument to the “build first, ask questions later” nature of global conflict.

Interestingly, though, the “mirrors” were built during the interim between World War I and II. From 1914 to 1939, a series of concrete structures dotted the coastline surrounding Kent. Each structure was designed to capture soundwaves from incoming aircraft and focus them on highly sophisticated listening devices. The idea was that groups stationed along the mirrors could identify aircraft before they were in firing or bombing range, allowing the British to scramble a rapid response.

Unfortunately, by the time the first set of mirrors was finished and tested in 1930, radar was starting to become a thing. Construction of the mirrors continued, but once World War II began, they were all but obsolete. Today, only a few of them remain, and you can take a guided tour explaining how they worked and why they were built.

 

Chislehurst Caves

The Battle of Britain was a devastating point of the war for England and the Allies. German planes bombarded cities all along the coastline and up the Thames River, including London, Dover, and Kent.

To help protect its civilians from these raids, the government built many underground facilities. While Londoners could escape the bombs by hiding out in subway stations, those who lived in Kent and the surrounding area came to Chislehurst.

This cave system is massive, as it could house up to 15,000 people at a time. In addition to the usual refinements (beds, restrooms, and mess halls), Chislehurst was also home to a movie theater, a barber, and three canteens so that locals could still get a spot of tea. There was a Red Cross hospital built inside, staffed by one doctor and two nurses. Fortunately, the hospital wasn’t overrun with casualties, but one girl was born there during the war.

After World War II, the caves were closed, although they reopened in the 60s as a concert venue. Today, there is a guided tour of Chislehurst that delves into the history of the Battle of Britain. Guests can also see replicas of the accommodations that residents had to use at the time.

 

RAF Upwood

Air superiority was a crucial point during the war, as the country with the best planes and pilots could dominate the skies. Bombing raids and dogfights were a constant part of World War II, which meant that all countries involved had to have various airfields and training grounds for their men.

For the Royal Air Force, Upwood served as one of those training grounds. The site was first built during World War I, although the runways, hangars, and other buildings were not permanent installations.

Between the wars, the Royal Air Force realized that they needed to expand and upgrade their operations, so Upwood became a staging area for many new planes and pilots necessary for the war effort. The airfield saw action twice during Luftwaffe bombing raids, but fortunately, there was only one casualty.

Post World War II, Upwood became a training ground for the US Air Force, who used it throughout the Cold War. Since the mid-90s, the site has been abandoned, and you can explore the ruins of the former base.

 

ROF Wrexham Industrial Estate

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, ROF stands for Royal Ordinance Force. Bombs and other munitions were essential for the war effort, and countless ROF sites popped up across Britain both before and during World War II.

Wrexham is located in Wales, and the ROF quickly adopted the industrial site at the beginning of the war. Wrexham was chosen for a couple of reasons. First, it was far enough away from Germany to be less enticing as a bombing site. Second, the area had a good railway network, enabling the ordinance to be shipped wherever it was needed.

To help protect the site from reconnaissance and attack, British forces spread the complex over a wide area. Farmland and agricultural buildings were left standing so that it would appear less like a munitions factory. Many of the ROF structures were also camouflaged to help avoid detection from spotter planes. Defensive pillboxes dotted the area, and an airbase was nearby to help defend both Wrexham and other military installations.

Wrexham mostly produced cordite, a substance used as fuel for various artillery shells. After the war ended, cordite production halted. Today, the site is home to many different businesses, as newer buildings were constructed in the 1950s. Remnants of storage towers and pillboxes can be seen and explored, although there are no guided tours.

 

RAF Biggin Hill

Because air raids were so prevalent during the war, countless shelters were built in strategic areas throughout the country. Airbases, like the one at Biggin Hill, required sturdy concrete structures to protect the personnel whenever the Germans would come knocking.

Biggin Hill was attacked several times throughout the war since it housed an RAF squadron. An air-raid shelter was built into the side of a hill nearby, which was large enough to accommodate around 40 people.

During the war, the British government allowed military men and women to share their stories on the radio as a means of boosting morale and providing personal insight into the war effort. One woman, Felicity Hanbury, recalled two bombing raids at Biggin Hill on August 30th, 1940.

As I entered headquarters, the sirens wailed, and we were told to go to the trenches. A few seconds later, we heard one squadron roar into the air, then another, then still another, and finally, the civilian air-raid warnings sounded in the surrounding country. We laughed and chatted on our way to the trenches, as this was no unusual occurrence.

Hanbury survived both raids, and Biggin Hill was never out of action. Several buildings and hangars were destroyed, along with phone lines, but the base remained operational throughout the war. Similar air shelters, however, were not so lucky. The government wisely decided to forgo sharing those stories so that civilians would not be dissuaded from using shelters altogether.

 

St. James’ Old Church

Although the ruins of this church consist mostly of the entryway and a few feet of walls, they have a long and impressive history. It was built in the 11th century, and restored in the 1800s. The church also served as a meeting place for the Barons of the Cinque Ports, although their last congregation was in 1851.

It’s interesting to think that a building like this stood for so many centuries, only to be destroyed so swiftly in modern times. The church was first damaged during World War I, when a seaplane dropped bombs on the nearby city, causing debris to hit the roof.

Although St James’ church was restored in 1931, German artillery destroyed much of the building during World War II. Firing across the English Channel, the Nazis had decided to target British cultural sites, including ones like this.

After its destruction, the church remained in ruin, with the main bell tower collapsing in 1951. Afterward, other parts of the structure were demolished in 1953 for safety reasons. Today, it serves as a “tidy ruin” that visitors can explore at their leisure.

British Ruins of World War 2

 

 

 

 

Posted in England, Europe, Military, Ruins, World War II | Leave a comment

Liquefied Natural Gas Production and Export in the United States

Liquified Natural Gas

When it comes to energy production and consumption, natural gas is on the rise. Compared to other carbon-based fuels like crude oil or coal, natural gas is far more abundant and much less pollutive when burned. As the world starts to move away from the dangers of carbon-based fuels, natural gas will continue to be a valuable resource for modern society. Currently, gas usage is on the rise, and these trends are expected to continue to go up in the coming years.

One of the best ways to store and ship natural gas is in a liquid state. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is highly stable, and it offers a variety of advantages. LNG production and usage are becoming more and more valuable these days, which means that countries that can produce LNG will become vital in the continued growth and expansion of industrialized nations.

In recent years, the United States has been increasing LNG production significantly. Currently, the US is ranked number three worldwide, but that will change in the near future. In this article, we want to take a closer look at LNG and its impact on the world, as well as the United States’ role in the production and export of this material.

The Value of Liquefied Natural Gas

One of the reasons that natural gas is in such high demand is that it can be used for a wide array of industries. Consumers are most familiar with the product as a means of heating houses and cooking fuel.

However, the application of natural gas goes well beyond those uses, as various industries utilize it to produce steel, paper, clothing, chemicals, and other products. Also, because natural gas is highly stable, it’s easy to deploy in a variety of situations. Some areas have even started using liquefied natural gas as an alternative fuel source for vehicles, as it burns cleaner than gasoline and is much denser.

The liquefaction process has been around for over a century, with facilities opening in the early 1910s. However, LNG production and usage have grown substantially since then, with modern industrialized nations leading the demand.

Compared to traditional natural gas, LNG has a host of benefits. First, gas production facilities can store much more of the material, as the liquefied version takes up 1/600th of the space of regular gas. Transportation of LNG is also highly reliable, making it feasible for producers to ship the fuel using trucks and barges, particularly in areas where building a pipeline is unfeasible.

LNG is much more stable than other fuel sources, as it is rarely flammable or combustible. This is a huge reason why the transportation of this material has been so reliable. In fact, barges have traveled over 100 million miles with LNG, all without any major leaks or catastrophes. Considering how crude oil spills have dominated the headlines in recent years, LNG is much less problematic.

Worldwide Demand for LNG Grows

While other carbon-based fuels are trending downward, natural gas is only expected to increase in demand. China is the world’s largest importer of the material, accounting for around 40 percent of global consumption. Industrialized nations around the globe need natural gas for many different industries, and because of its clean-burning profile and stable storage, it’s a much better alternative.

Overall, worldwide demand for LNG increased by 4.6 percent in 2018, and it’s projected to grow even higher in the next five years. This means that countries that can produce LNG reliably will be in a highly competitive position when it comes to trade and influence.

US Production and Export of LNG

As recently as 2003, the United States was in a precarious position regarding natural gas. At the time, we were using more of the fuel than we were importing, which created a massive shortage across the board. Headlines of the year illustrated the potential disaster that awaited the country if natural gas imports weren’t increased to meet demand.

In recent years, however, the United States has gone from a major importer of LNG to one of the top five exporters. The first LNG production facility opened in Louisiana in 2016. Since then, the US has overtaken countries like Nigeria and Indonesia to capture the number four spot in worldwide LNG production.

Let’s take a closer look at why this happened and what it means for US interests, both domestically and abroad.

A Shale Revolution

Driven in part by the shortages of the early 2000s, energy companies were looking for a way to boost US natural gas production. Fortunately, they found the answer in massive gas deposits trapped in shale rock. Fracking has become a vast industry in the last few years, as production facilities can tap into these deposits to create an abundance of natural gas.

Once the raw material became readily available, liquefying it was the next logical step. Many countries lack the infrastructure necessary to pipe in natural gas, which is why LNG is so valuable.

Cheniere Energy was the first company to create a liquefied natural gas facility (called a train) in 2016. Currently, this is the largest LNG producer in the country, and it will likely stay that way. As of 2019, the Sabine Pass facility can produce up to three billion cubic feet of LNG per day across five trains.

Once the door was opened, other facilities came online, both in Corpus Christi, TX, and Cove Point, MD. Since 2016, 17 LNG trains have been opened, and another 13 are approved by the Department of Energy and scheduled to come online in the next few years.

It didn’t take long for LNG production to surpass usage in the US, which has made prices highly competitive, particularly when compared to international producers like Australia, Qatar, and Russia. In fact, many LNG facilities can produce the material below the cost of production, which means that they wind up paying companies to take their supply, rather than the other way around.

Since 2017, the United States has had a surplus of natural gas, which has only grown. In 2018, the country exported more LNG than 2016 and 2017 combined.

While this meteoric increase in production has been a boon to the country’s energy needs, infrastructure has not quite been able to keep up. Even with so many trains coming online, natural gas companies will likely be sitting on vast surpluses of the material, waiting to get liquefied and shipped.

Nonetheless, the US is expected to overtake Australia and Qatar (the number one and two producers of LNG, respectively) by 2024. Australia exports around 10.8 billion cubic feet of LNG daily – Qatar exports 9.9 bcf. By the end of 2019, US exports were expected to reach 8.9 billion. According to projections, the US should be able to transport over 20 billion cubic feet per day, far outpacing the competition.

US LNG’s Trade Impact

Being such a monumental LNG producer and exporter puts the US is an excellent position, trade-wise. Because the cost of its natural gas is so low, many countries are buying from the United States, even if they are closer to other production facilities. Ironically, Qatar has started buying and importing US natural gas, despite the country being second place in exportation. A significant reason for the discrepancy is that Qatar lacks the infrastructure to move its own LNG around the country, so it’s more cost-effective to buy from the US.

Southeast Asia is driving global demand for LNG, particularly countries like China and South Korea. These places are unable to produce much (if any) natural gas of their own, so they require imports to keep their societies running. While China is investing in LNG facilities, it’s still cheaper to import from the US at current prices.

One major shakeup caused by US LNG production is that Europe can buy from America, not Russia. For many years, Russia supplied the majority of European natural gas via pipelines, but that is no longer the case. As the US can supply more LNG to countries like Great Britain and Germany, Russia’s influence in the region will weaken.

Bottom Line: US LNG Production and Export is a Game Changer

It’s hard to believe that the United States went from the number one importer of natural resources to one of the biggest exporters in just a few years. With vast reserves and growing worldwide demand, LNG production will ensure US influence and trade growth in the coming years and decades. While green energy will inevitably overtake natural gas at some point down the line, the United States is poised to be an LNG powerhouse for the foreseeable future.

 

Resources: https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/09/09/10-incredible-facts-about-american-lng-exports.aspx

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/liquefied-natural-gas.php

https://setxind.com/midstream/liquid-natural-gas-and-why-it-is-popular/

https://www.energyindepth.org/report-the-united-states-will-be-the-worlds-top-lng-exporter-in-the-next-five-years/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2019/01/07/the-us-can-be-a-top-three-global-lng-exporter-before-2020/#213158195151

 

 

 

 

Posted in Liquified Natural Gas | Leave a comment

The History of Hydraulic Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing — otherwise known as “fracking” — is a mining and drilling technique that has garnered much attention in the news over the past two decades or so. From its humble beginnings over a century ago to an often-misunderstood global practice, fracking has received its fair share of criticism. But, what is fracking, and where did it come from? These questions are important to consider when learning about this technique,

What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Fracking is a method of drilling that involves pumping liquid (typically water, but not always), sand and other substances underground into vertical and horizontal boreholes The resulting pressure created by this influx of liquid creates and exacerbates fissures and cracks, forcing open subterranean layers of rock. The sand acts as a prop, keeping the forced layers of rock open, which allows the easy release of oil and natural gas, which rises to the surface and is then collected.

The environmental effects and overall safety of this drilling technique have been hotly debated for years now, but the history of fracking goes back much further than that.

What Is the History of Fracking?

As Geo ExPro tells us, early recorded instances of what would eventually turn into fracking go back as far as 1857 when, on a farm in Canadaway Creek, New York, Preston Barmore had a gas well that was not producing as much gas as he would hope. He theorized that the gas was having a difficult time escaping the well due to blockage. To create a larger opening, Barmore lowered gunpowder down the well, and then ignited it with a red-hot iron tube. The resulting explosion greatly increased the flow of gas from the well.

Although there was no liquid involved in that incident, or similar ones, it paved the way for future hydraulic fracturing because it employed and proved a valid theory: using pressure to increase well production.

In 1865, Colonel Edward Roberts invented a new method that he and his brothers called “superincumbent fluid-tamping,” an idea which came to him after watching artillery shells explode in water during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virgina, according to Business Insider. This method used the same concept of pressure-by-explosion, but used water as a medium to alter the explosion in several ways. First, it helped to evenly distribute the pressure created by the detonation, ensuring that the entire area was affected. Secondly, it helped to dampen the explosion and stop any debris from flying back up through the borehole, which created a safety hazard for those on the outside. Third, it enhanced the explosion.

In addition to creating this technique, Roberts also invented a nitro-glycerine torpedo that he used in place of gunpowder. This helped to create a more reliable and controllable explosion than could be expected with powder alone. This is considered by many to be the actual start of what is now known as hydraulic fracturing.

The Rise of Modern Hydraulic Fracturing

Even though this process was used as far back as the 1860s, it wasn’t really used at all until the 1940s. During that time, a Stanolind Oil worker named Floyd Farris suggested that using liquid to fracture a rock formation could help to increase the productivity of the rocks and wells in question.

This was put to the test in 1947 (note: a full 80 years after Edward Roberts did it!) when the first modern commercial application of the theory took place in Kansas. For this use, over a thousand gallons of napalm and naphthenic acid were mixed with sand and gasoline. This mixture was forced into a rock formation under the No. 1 Klepper well in Hugoton Field. Needless to say, it worked.

Fracking was put to an even larger scale test just a couple of years later in 1949, when Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company acquired an exclusive license to use this process. Over the course of the next year, fracking was used on over 330 wells, this time with a combination of crude oil, sand and gasoline. The results were promising: on average, the 330 wells increased their production by as much as 75%.

In 1953 companies started to use water for the liquid, and over the next few years many different combinations of water, sand and various chemicals were tested to try and figure out the best overall combination.

By the late 1960s fracking was basically a standard practice all over the United States, but it was used primarily on easy-to-reach oil and gas deposits.

New Techniques, New Problems

As fracking grew in popularity and use, different companies discovered different techniques to make it even more efficient. One important discovery was the use of horizontal drilling, allowing the company to access more of a particular rock formation at any given time.

This technique was very important because it eventually led to a breakthrough when it came to using fracking on shale. Shale is a rock formation that keeps hydrocarbons packed together in very tight formations. Standard fracking at the time simply didn’t produce the amount of pressure needed to crack these formations. Horizontal drilling was one of the first “newer” techniques that provided promise when it came to fracking in shale.

In the mid 1980s, Mitchell Energy out of Texas finally developed a solution to fracking in shale, combining horizontal drilling with the use of “slick” water. Slick water is a low-viscosity type of water that, due to its extreme thin-ness, makes it very easy to move very quickly. In short, the use of slick water allowed Mitchel Energy to force even more water into the horizontal drill spots in a shorter amount of time, creating intense pressure that finally cracked open the shale formations and released the natural gas within.

In 2002, Mitchell Energy merged with Devon Energy, creating a large company that employed fracking techniques on shale across a large portion of the US. The quick expansion of this technique forced fracking into the public eye, where it was met with skepticism.

Fracking is not without its side effects. The process creates microearthquakes (which are less than a three on the Richter scale and are virtually undetectable) but has been linked to a few larger earthquakes as well, most notably a 5.7 in Oklahoma in 2011. In addition, many in the public worry that injecting large amounts of chemicals underground can lead to damage to the ecosystem and a tainted water table, which could affect millions of people in the surrounding area. The US government has conducted a number of studies over the possible contamination of local water supplies due to fracking. So far, none of them have shown the fracking process to have any significant impact on local water tables or other environmental concerns.

The Future of Fracking

It’s safe to say that fracking will remain a controversial topic going into the future. As federal priorities shift and regulations change, many will question the safety of the process and the validity of the studies that support it. Meanwhile, companies all across the US continue to use fracking successfully, which has helped turn the US into an even more powerful player on the global energy scene.

Whatever the future of fracking might hold, it’s safe to say that this process has transformed how companies look for oil and gas in the US and abroad, and has changed how the world finds its energy.

Posted in Hydraulic Fracking | Leave a comment

The History of John D. Rockefeller

The History of John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller is widely considered one of the wealthiest people in American and human history, but how was he able to amass one of the largest fortunes that the world has ever seen?

John D. Rockefeller was born to William Rockefeller Sr. and his first wife Eliza Davidson in upstate New York on July 8th, 1839. John was born into a large family and was just one of six siblings in this marriage, including his brother William Rockefeller Jr. who would end up cofounding Standard Oil with him.

 

The Rockefeller Family

One of the most commonly asked questions we have seen throughout history is how did the Rockefellers manage to build their empire? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is largely unknown. The Rockefellers both as individuals and as a family have chosen to keep the cumulative total of their wealth including all assets, cash, equity, family member net worths, and the estate mostly private. With that, the early growth of the families wealth is something that is uncertain, but we have found ties to land, real estate investments, and of course, the oil industry.

The Rockefeller family has made it a priority to protect their estate, the majority of which was sealed in their family trust back in 1934. They set up another trust in 1952, both of which are managed by Chase Bank. Their trusts are managed by committees within Chase that oversee and manage the fortune, while Rockefeller Financial services handles the families sizable financial investments.

Acclaimed author and researcher Malcolm Gladwell estimated that at the peak of the Rockefeller’s wealth, they would have been worth around $320 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s approximately three times the net worth of Bill Gates or three to four times that of Warren Buffet, two of the wealthiest people in history.

How did the Rockefellers build Standard Oil, and make them one of the richest families in history?

 

The History of John D. Rockefeller

The Founding of Standard Oil

Even though standard oil wasn’t officially established until 1870, there was a lot of work that went into creating one of the largest and most lucrative oil companies and monopolies in history. John D. Rockefeller and his brother William started laying the groundwork of the company back in 1863. It was a partnership formed between themselves, Samuel Andrews, Henry Flagler, Stephen V. Harkness, and Oliver Jennings. Jennings made it into the partnership as he was married to a woman who happens to be the sister of William’s wife.

After starting off as a partnership, John later dismantled the partnership in 1870, after which they incorporated Standard Oil. The reason that they named their corporation standard oil is so that it would stand as an organization that stood on reliable product quality and service standards. He wanted to set the tone for an industry that was still very much in its infancy. They envisioned creating something new, great, powerful and revolutionary for oil.

This ideal is what lead John Rockefeller and his fellow stakeholders to create a business that would dominate the oil industry, leading the charge in innovation and unmatched success. John was the single largest shareholder in the company at the time, with William being the second most, so that they could shape and direct the company in the way that they saw fit. Though they appeared to be collaborative in their decision-making process with the other stakeholders and founders of Standard Oil, it was apparent that John made it a priority to keep the power in his corner.

 

Growing Standard Oil

The Rockefeller’s goal was to grow Standard Oil through the acquisition of other related companies. As Standard Oil continued to grow, they would buy out their competitors along the way. Bought competitors that were deemed as beneficial to growing the standard oil empire were integrated quickly into their pipeline. Used to increase the overall efficiency and output of their company.

Standard Oil also bought out competitors that were not directly beneficial for the growth and effectiveness of the organization. They would also buy out competitors that were getting in the way but weren’t at all beneficial to the growth and expansion of Standard Oil. Rockefeller would then close down as a means of eliminating the competition and gaining greater control over the oil market.

The next step the Rockefellers took toward building the monopoly was in gaining exclusive control over oil shipping along the New York Central, a major railroad which ran through New York to Boston and then across the Midwest to Chicago and St. Louis. Rockefeller inked a deal with them in which he would give them a discount of over 70% on barrels, as long as they agreed to ship at least 60 car loads of oil per day. Not only did this lock in an enormous amount of business for standard oil, it was absolutely impossible for any other oil company to compete with that price. No other company was big enough to compete or offer that generous of a discount.

There were some other notable time and money saving tactics that Rockefeller deployed to maintain control of costs and manage prices. This included using the Erie Canal during the warmer months of the year for oil transport, to help them save on shipping costs with the rail lines which they relied heavily on throughout the rest of the year. He cut transportation deals in secret with other companies that helped drop the price of kerosene by more than 50 percent from 1865 to 1870. Those who they didn’t put out of business or buy out became heated opponents and enemies of the Rockefeller empire and Standard Oil.

Up to this point Standard Oil was well recognized as the leading powerhouse in the industry, but the depth and sweeping breadth of the power of standard oil was yet to be uncovered. Outside of Rockefeller and the key stakeholders, few had any idea just how much control Standard Oil had over their business and the oil industry.

 

Competition and the Sherman Antitrust Act

The assembly of the Hepburn Committee could be seen as the first step in leading toward the investigation of Standard Oil as a monopoly. A. Barton Hepburn received orders from the state of New York to investigate the railroads for the rebates and discounts that they had been handing out within the state. They came to find that half of their total traffic were receiving rebates, and that the vast majority of that total traffic was coming from the Standard Oil company. This particular investigation lead uncovered the volume of business that Standard Oil was controlling, but ultimately lead in a scolding of the railroad companies for permitting this to happen.

Rockefeller recognized that at this rate, it wouldn’t be long before he himself and Standard Oil would be under investigation. In response, he developed a few work-arounds so that he could hopefully continue to grow the company without attracting too much attention.

In 1882, they pooled the companies that they had either built or bought out across the country and combined them so that they would now be under the control of a single group of 37 stakeholders, which then placed their shares in a trust of 9 trustees. The trustees included the Rockefeller brothers, John and William, along with some of the original founders and a few others.

8 years later, the American Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act by an overwhelming majority. This act was created and passed to prevent any business or organization from conspiring to monopolize an industry through restraining trade. Though that phrase seemed to have a loose or subjective meaning within the verbiage of the act, this gave power so that the Ohio Attorney General could conduct a thorough investigation of Standard Oil.

Though it wasn’t until 1911 when the United States Justice Department dug in their heels against Standard Oil At this point, the company was in control of 85% of all final oil sales that occurred domestically within the United States. The federal government not only sued Standard Oil for their disobedience against the country’s antitrust laws, they also made an order for standard oil to breakup into 34 separate companies.

 

Expansion Before the End of Standard Oil

Before the Sherman Antitrust Act worked to disband Standard Oil, they had expanded outside of the US and built sizable business in international markets. They extended their business into China, marketing kerosene for lamps. They were able to carve out their niche by marketing themselves to Chinese farmers, offering a better fuel to burn than the vegetable oil that they commonly used before them. Before long, China had become their biggest client in Asia. Meanwhile, they had built partnerships in the Middle East as well.

 

Standard Oil As We Know it Today

Despite Standard Oil becoming dismantled by antitrust legislation, their legacy still lives on today. Standard Oil was broken into dozens of oil and gas and pipeline companies. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Marathon Oil are some of the most notable companies that remain in business today. Business experts and historians believe that had the company not been disbanded, they would be worth in the range of $1 trillion.

Though the disbanding of Standard Oil is something that has long passed, it is still something of controversy. There are many people that don’t believe that Standard Oil was a monopoly. In fact, there’s a large group of experts that believed that what they were doing was great for the oil business and the economy, pushing them and other companies to create a superior product at competitive prices. In fact, many economic historians believe that the company was in the process of losing their dominant position in the market during the time the antitrust legislation was being passed. This was due to the fact that other large oil companies such as Texaco, Shell, Gulf Oil, and others were on the rise and some of them were beginning to vertically integrate as well.

 

 Where is the Rockefeller Family Today?

There are over 150 blood relatives of John D. Rockefeller Sr. alive today. Though some individuals who are close to the family have noted that they don’t believe that the remaining funds in the trusts will be able to sustain the current living generation of Rockefellers, or that it will begin dwindling soon.

That’s of course difficult to believe considering that in 2016 it was estimated that the remaining family fortune was $11 billion.

Posted in John D. Rockefeller, Monopoly, Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Standard Oil Company, Standard Oil Trust | Leave a comment

The History of Petroleum in the United States

The History of Petroleum in the United States

Petroleum, also known as crude oil, and natural gas are carbon-based fuels trapped under the earth’s surface. Plant and animal remains from millions to hundreds of millions of years ago formed carbon-based fuels. And they are a couple of the most important natural resources we use today.

Petroleum and natural gas can be found in just about every aspect of our lives. From the time you wake up and go to work to the time you sleep, you are most likely using them in one form or another. Your heated home. The electricity you use for your lights and computer. And the car you use to drive to work. You guessed it! These are all things that require petroleum or natural gas.

US oil and natural gas are resources that play a big part in the US economy today. And the history of US oil and natural gas production date back to 1859. Let’s take a look at the history of US oil and natural gas exploration, production, processing, transportation and marketing.

 

Exploration and Production

The US was not the first country to extract oil to be used as a resource. Crude oil was actually believed to be used first in the Middle East by ancient Babylonians and Egyptians for things like construction and mummy preparation! It would be many years later before oil was understood and used to its full potential. But first, it would have to be discovered in the US. And in the US, the first successful and commercially viable well was discovered in 1859, starting the history of US oil production.

It all began in Titusville, Pennsylvania when Colonel Edwin Drake was looking for a source to extract kerosene. At the time, kerosene was widely used as a light oil. It was a popular, clean fuel that could be used to light homes for cheap. And gasoline, which had few commercial uses at the time, was only a byproduct of kerosene.

In Pennsylvania, Drake created the first commercial well for oil using a new drilling technique. The new technique used a pipeline in boreholes. This allowed for much deeper drilling compared to how things were done previously. And it allowed for much larger, viable quantities of oil to be extracted from deep within the earth. He was able to go down 69 feet before hitting both oil and natural gas!

Before Drake used the new drilling technique, people had been skimming oil off the surface of the water in Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek or collecting oil from the region’s salt wells. As you can imagine, it was very time-consuming and not the most effective way to obtain oil. However, with the well’s success and a high demand for the natural resources, the start of an oil rush had begun.

After Drake’s oil well in Titusville, oil extraction began. And a pipeline to bring natural gas to a village was built. Western Pennsylvania became a popular area for other people who were interested in oil exploration. That later led to researching refinery techniques as well as oil exploration in other areas. In 1861, oil was discovered in Kern County, California. And in Texas, oil was discovered in 1901.

And what about natural gas? Well, natural gas started as an unpopular byproduct of oil exploration. It was almost exclusively used as a source of light. However, new uses for the gas led to more exploration and later trying to figure out a way to best transport the natural resource. In the past, natural gas was often discovered alongside oil or by noticing air seeping from the ground; maybe from bubbles in the water or in a flame.

The first large-scale exploration and extraction of natural gas began in the late 20th century. In southern Tennessee and Texas, the Barnett Shale was explored, and by 2006, about 40,000 wells for gas production were in place! And in 2019? According to the Environment Impact Assessment, the US will have produced an average of 92.1 billion cubic feet of gas a day. That’s 10 percent more than the previous year!

Today, both oil and natural gas exploration and production is a lot more scientific. Geologists will first look for an area where shale, a kind of rock, is formed. Why look for rock? Shale formations often contain large accumulations of oil and natural gas.

Geologists can look at exposed rocks on the surface of the earth or drill cores deep into the earth to get a better idea of what rocks are present. They can also conduct a seismic survey, sending waves through the earth to collect information on the different properties in the layers of the earth.

After collecting information, geologists piece everything together before deciding on the best place to drill for oil and natural gas. It can be very complicated, and each method can have uncertainties as the data collected cannot always tell you exactly what is below the earth’s surface. However, petroleum and natural gas’s high demand continues to be the reason for their continued exploration and production.

A lot has changed since the 20th century in the US. After 1901, over 1,500 oil companies started up within a year. And today, there are around 9,000 independent producers of natural gas and oil in the US. The exploration and production of oil and natural gas went through a lot of change and rapid growth. And now, of those 9,000 producers, there are over 900,000 gas and oil wells in the US that are actively producing natural resources, and production does not seem to be slowing down.

The History of Petroleum in the United States

Processing (Refining)

What does it mean to refine crude oil? To put it simply, it means heating and breaking down the petroleum to produce different products such as diesel, jet fuel or gasoline. Crude oil is like a mixture of all the products. And the mixture needs to go through a refining process in order to separate, convert and treat it.

Crude oil can have a number of different molecules present depending on the deposit. That means each oil well may have a different composition and properties. So in order to use the natural resource, it needs to be heated and separated.

Natural gas is less complicated than processing crude oil, but it is just as necessary to refine natural gas before its use. Consumers will use natural gas that is almost entirely made of methane. However, like crude oil, raw natural gas contains other compounds and needs to be processed. Some of the gas can separate from oil on its own, while other times, equipment known as Low-Temperature Separators use pressure differentials to separate the natural gas.

Let’s go back and take a look at the pivotal moment in US oil production history – the first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Before the first US oil well, petroleum was not available in large quantities. It was gathered from natural seepage through the earth’s surface, and was not in large enough quantities which limited its use. However, after being able to extract sufficient amounts of crude oil, large-scale refining systems were in development.

Refineries started with simple distillation units called stills. They were used to separate the different products in petroleum through means of heating the crude oil in a vessel. Then, the vapors were condensed into liquid fractions. Depending on the temperature at which the crude oil is heated, a different product could be separated from the mixture. Who knew crude oil could be so complex?

In the beginning, the main product that oil refineries were able to get was kerosene. Later, they were able to separate other fuel products. The products include things like gasoline, diesel fuel, waxes, asphalt, heating oil and lubricating oils. Different uses for the products began to emerge. And the demand for gasoline accelerated dramatically when Henry Ford created an affordable car in 1908. And it is still in high demand today!

With the demand for automotive fuel on the rise after 1910, refiners had an incentive to develop more sophisticated technology to increase their yield of gasoline. A process called thermal cracking, which heated heavier oils, was the earliest process. Pressurized reactors were used to split large molecules to get smaller fractions like gasoline and light industrial fuels.

The 1930s and WWII also contributed to the improvement of the refining process where catalysts were used to improve quality and increase the supply of fuels. Can you guess why? Fuel was an indispensable resource needed to fuel tanks and other forms of transportation during the war. And come the 1950s and 60s, demand for jet fuel and lubricating oils led to more improvements in catalytic reforming processes to increase yields.

There were many factors that played an essential part in the history of petroleum. John. D. Rockefeller was another one of these factors playing a major role in refining oil. In 1865, he started the Standard Oil Company. And he was known as the first “baron” to the oil industry. His career started in refining, and his company came to control 90 percent of the refining capacity in the US in 1879. Today, you may recognize the company ExxonMobil, Rockefeller’s successor company.

In the US today, you can find four of the largest refineries in the world! Two of the refineries are located in Texas, and the other two being in Los Angeles. Each refinery has the capacity to refine between 500,000 to 600,000 barrels of oil a day. And on top of that, 35 states in the US have refineries! Refining has become big business in the US.

Processing petroleum has become more sophisticated over the years. Who knows what it might look like in the future.

 

Transportation

With a high demand for oil and natural gas, transporting the natural resources was also something that had to be addressed.

There were no oil pipelines back in the day. So transportation was a lot more tricky. The first method that was used to transport oil was in wooden barrels. They were carried on horse drawn carts and carried down to rail road stations. And from there, the railroad system was used to transport the oil barrels to refineries before being unloaded.

Can you imagine all those barrels being packed, moved around by horse and then moved by train? This method of transportation was highly inefficient. It was a very slow process and expensive. Simple pipelines that were made from wood were later created to help cut costs. And gradually, as demand increased, sturdier pipelines made of iron and steel were built to help with transportation.

Over time, a transport system using tanker trucks was used and became the primary way to move crude oil to the refineries in the 1940s. Well sites would have large field storage tanks which would hold the oil until tanker trucks arrived. The trucks started off carrying between 40 and 50 barrels, but later were built to eventually hold up to 220 barrels of petroleum.

After a while, transporting with tanker trucks reached capacity limits. It was then that pipeline systems that stretched long distances were being considered. There was a lot of uncertainty as there were risks like pipe clogging. But they were eventually considered the most economical way to move large amounts of crude oil over long distances. And it was definitely a whole lot better than having to move barrels by horse!

Today, oil can be transported by pipeline, rail, truck or ship. Pipelines are most commonly used to move crude oil from the well to facilities and refiners. Rail is also an option for long distance shipping. Trucks limit oil storage, but offer flexibility when it comes to transporting oil to different destinations. They are usually used as the last step when transporting oil to storage destinations. And lastly, ships are also an option when transporting oil in bulk at a fraction of the cost when compared to pipelines.

The options for transportation of natural gas were a little less varied compared to US oil transport. When Colonel Edwin Drake dug the 1859 well and hit oil and natural gas, US natural gas production got its start. And that is when a small pipeline was built to transport the natural gas 5 1/2 miles to a nearby village. It was moved safely and easily to the village for use, but it was still difficult to transport the gas very long distances.

In 1891, one of the first major pipelines for natural gas made a pipeline 120 miles long from Indiana to Chicago. It worked, but it was still not efficient enough until the 1920s. It was then that more effort was put into creating an improved pipeline infrastructure for natural gas. Advances in pipe production including new techniques in welding led to a boom in pipeline construction, allowing for thousands of miles of US pipeline.

Today, natural gas, like oil, is mainly transported along pipelines. The gas needs to be highly pressurized in order to move it. And to make sure the air stays pressurized, there are compressor stations located along the pipeline to compress the gas through use of a motor, engine or turbine. And when companies cannot transport on land, they have the option to liquefy it and then transport it by ship!

 

Marketing

US oil and natural gas production help people commute to work, keep their homes warm, and enable them to do a multitude of other activities. You can buy and sell oil and gas just about everywhere.

In the past, petroleum was mostly taken to extract kerosene. And most of the other products in petroleum would go unused and discarded. However, in the 20th century, oil became a preferred source of energy. And with that, gasoline sales surpassed kerosene sales. As for natural gas, it was often burned because it was an unwanted byproduct before the 1920s. But as people began to realize its many uses, it became a product worth extracting.

So as the use of oil and gas became more popular, more companies were in search of ways to market their product. Different ways to improve exploration, production and processing would help US oil and gas market growth. New models for business and services continue to evolve. These result in reduced operation costs and promote growth in the market.

Many US companies take on various pipeline projects to help expand production and sustain growth. Market players also invest in plans that help increase oil and gas product demand. In addition, government policies support the exploration and production of US oil and gas and encourage companies in the industry to boost US oil and natural gas investments. What does this all do? It helps with oil and gas markets and ensures continued growth.

The history of US oil production and US gas production have a rich history. Everything from their exploration, production, refinement, transportation and marketing have changed, advanced, and grown over the years. It is unknown what the future holds for these natural resources, but until we stop using or decrease the amount of things we use these products for, US oil production and natural gas production will still hold a place in our foreseeable future.

Posted in History of U.S. Oil Production, John D. Rockefeller, Oil Production | Leave a comment

What is the Difference Between a Thriller Novel and a Mystery Novel?

Tucked in a darkened corner of the library, you scan the shelves for a good read. Late at night, your spouse catches you browsing the pages of Amazon. (When else do you read a worthy suspense novel?) Thrillers and mysteries heighten the senses and draw us in.

Crime fiction took over general fiction in 2018. Why?

– Good triumphs over evil. And people need to believe that in their souls.

– Readers seek engagement and excitement. Suspense novels deliver.

But is there a difference between thriller novels and mystery novels?

Thriller vs. Mystery: Case Solved

Intrigue. Suspense. Clues. From the first chapter, the author grabs your attention. No turning back. Heart beating fast. Furtive glances around the room. You read and read and read. You sit on the edge of your seat. (Or the bed. Or the couch.)

The unknown beckons you down the path. Curiosity begs you to turn page after page. You think you know where the story is headed until…you run smack into an unexpected twist. The masterful simplicity of it makes you think, “How did I not see that coming?”

Thriller and mystery novels …

– Heighten the senses.

– Stimulate the brain.

– Reduce stress.

– Create a human connection.

– Keep you on guard.

Good suspense novels, both mystery and thriller, include…

1. Apparent conflict: a crime or an intense problem to solve.

2. Quick pacing: the quicker the pace, the greater the suspense.

3. Misleading clues: perfect for leading to an unexpected twist.

4. Descriptive atmosphere: mood, tone and location build suspense.

5. High stakes: risky outcomes keep readers hungry.

Despite the similarities, these novels differ, primarily in their expectations. But structural and content differences show up as well.

The Tension of a Thriller Novel

Roll out a few basics, and thriller novels roll out intrigue, danger and a moving, twisting plot. The quest to prevent a crime before time runs out makes a quality thriller a true page turner. Plus, they translate well onto the silver screen.

Thriller novels differ from mystery novels. (Compare with the list in the next section.) They…

– Introduce conflict through a crime about to happen.

– Focus on preventing the crime.

– Give the reader information the hero does not get.

– Reveal the villain from the start of the novel.

– Create high-level danger from the onset.

– Produce a greater adrenaline rush — from the couch.

– Run a ticking clock the hero must beat.

Thrillers create a constant sense of danger for the protagonist. Quick-paced, high-stakes pressure engages readers and raises their heart rate. The details revealed to the reader and unknown to the protagonist heighten suspense.

Several subgenres make thrillers attractive to a wide audience of readers. Medical, psychological, action, crime, political, legal, military, spy and science fiction — this genre offers something for everyone.

The Curiosity of a Mystery Novel

Quality mystery novels engage the reader beyond pure entertainment. Humor, wit, intelligence and prevailing justice win the day. And, between the first and last pages, you cannot put the book down until you figure out whodunit.

Mystery novels differ from thrillers in several ways. They…

– Introduce conflict as an unsolved mystery.

– Focus on solving the crime.

– Concentrate on post-crime details.

– Solve to unveil the unnamed villain.

– Craft a strong hero or protagonist.

– Build on moderate danger.

These novels raise a lower level of suspense than thrillers. The reader and the protagonist solve the crime at the same pace. No inside information makes you want to scream, “Don’t open that door!” or “The bomb is under the bed!” Neither you nor the hero knows what lay unseen.

Cozy. Historical. Police procedurals. Forensic. Whatever the mystery subgenre, readers engage with the tension of an unsolved crime. In the end, justice wins with the unmasking of the villain. Good puts evil in its place. The tension resolves.

Genre Over Unlabelled: Readers Win

Does the genre matter? Is it important to categorize these books? Some seem to morph both labels into one. Combine a case to be solved, plentiful action scenes and insider information. What label do you put on that?

The genre becomes important for two reasons:

– A bookstore needs to know where to place it to entice the most readers.

– It focuses the writer and targets his or her writing, producing a better quality novel.

In the end, genre gives readers a quality mystery or thriller novel — they can easily find it.

Thriller or Mystery: Your Choice

Thrillers and mysteries engage the mind of the reader as he or she thinks along with the protagonist. Problem-solving proves to be fuel for our brains. But each genre gets there with different content and structure.

You get to choose which will make your heartbeat fast on any given dark, wind-howling night.

Man Window

Skull Book

Posted in Author, Fiction - Thriller, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller, Thriller, Writers | Leave a comment

The Key Elements of a Suspense Story

Suspense is a popular genre of fiction writing for good reason. First, suspense is not just a genre, it is an element of fiction that keeps readers reading and continually has them coming back for more. Common elements of suspense include empathetic characters, creating concern, including impending danger for the characters and escalating tension. However, there is so much more to creating a compelling suspense novel. Here are some more key elements to include in a suspense novel that will keep readers turning the pages.

Foreshadowing

Using foreshadowing is a technique anyone who wants to write suspense fiction should master. Start planting clues early and remind readers that something bad is going to happen. Readers will pick up on the clues and will naturally start to worry about the hero of the story. Foreshadowing can seem small, or they can be obvious and monumental clues.

High Stakes  

When writing suspense fiction, low stakes and low consequences equates to low interest. Make sure your main character’s goals and reasons for achieving them are clear from the outset of the story. As your story progresses, the stakes should get higher to build the momentum and suspense of the story.

The Element of Surprise

Suspense is based on uncertainty. So, make it your friend if you want to write suspense fiction. Think about an expected outcome and flip it around. Maybe something bad happening ends up being a blessing in disguise. If you mix positive and negative foreshadowing, you will keep your readers on their toes, wondering what will come next and surprised by whatever it is.

Withholding Information

Generate interest in your story by requiring the readers to want more. Instead of giving your readers every bit of needed information, leave some important details out. If your readers only know what the main character knows, they will naturally crave additional information and keep reading until they get it. Slowly revealing information to your readers keep them engaged in the protagonist’s journey and will propel them through the novel. Not only is it okay to be vague at times, it will actually help make your suspense story better.

Put Time on Your Side (But not the Hero’s)

You can easily build up suspense and tension by putting time constraints on your characters. If your hero works against a clock while your villain has the clock as an advantage, the suspense will naturally build and will give your story momentum.

Pressure-Filled Situations

Create situations that put pressure on your hero. If you put your hero in situations that seem insurmountable, you create a sympathetic character your readers will root for. It is crucial for you to test your hero to the breaking point, but make sure your hero never breaks, no matter how stressful the situation is.

Dilemmas

Use your villain to complicate the progress of your hero. Suspense stories thrive on drama, and creating dilemmas for your hero to deal with is a great way to build it. As your hero deals with and overcomes all the dilemmas you create, your readers will become more endeared and will root for the success of the hero. Give your hero problems with no-win solutions, like a situation where two people are in peril and the hero can only save one. Your readers will be so enthralled with the story  they will keep turning the pages to see how every situation is solved.

Unpredictability

No one’s life ever runs smoothly all the time. Use this familiar issue to your advantage in your suspense story. Make your hero go through several unexpected events and have nothing be straight-forward. If your hero must constantly be concerned about every decision that must be made, it adds a bit of intrigue and suspense to the story. Your readers will want to know what tactics your hero takes to overcome the obstacles that are put in the way. The hero’s improvisation will bring interest to the story.

Intriguing Villains

The villain in a suspense story helps to drive the plot. In a suspense story the villain is always present, so you need to create a colorful character. Make sure this antagonist of your story is smart and motivated. Take time to consider your villain’s motivations and character. Let the readers know and understand why the villain makes particular choices. Make the readers believe in and fear the villain, and make the villain a worthy opponent for the hero.

Provocative Heroes

If you are going to put time and effort into creating a fantastic villain, you need to put considerable time and effort to create the ideal hero. The hero in a suspense story is different than a hero in other types of stories. The suspense hero must be believable and sympathetic. Readers need to truly care about your hero. Otherwise, they will not keep reading the story. Also, take time to show your readers why they should care about the hero. Do not simply tell them they should.

Now that you have a good idea of which elements to include in a suspense story, here are some tips on how to write a great one:

Keep the Plot Moving

Keep your readers entertained by providing a suspenseful atmosphere. Quickly move from one scene to another and regularly introduce new ideas to keep the readers hooked.

Make a Big Promise Early — and Keep It

Early in your suspense story you need to make a big promise to your readers. A big promise will captivate readers and keep them hooked until the end of the story. Let your readers know what the payoff will be, and then lead them there. The promises you make lie in the areas between the action. The tension and suspense will build as the readers wonder if and how you will be able to keep the promise you made.

Use Locations for Suspense

Set your suspense story in areas that lend themselves to suspense. Use the location of your story to enhance the suspense by incorporating it into the plot rather than simply having it be the background.

Take Away Helpful Tools From Your Hero

There are many tools your main character can use as weapons depending on the situations you put your hero in. A common trick is to make the climax of the story the ultimate meeting between your hero and your villain. During this scene, make sure your protagonist does not have access to weapons, other tools or even helpful allies. The existence of a precarious situation with no logical way out will build suspense that your readers will love.

Keep Your Readers Guessing

The feeling of suspense is reliant on the unknown. If the readers can predict your ending too early in the book, they will likely not care about finishing it.  So, keep them on their toes and turning the pages to find out what will happen. Throw in a few twists and turns along the way to always keep your readers guessing. But, be careful to not go too far. You want to build suspense, but not at the cost of completely confusing your readers.

Do not Overstep

Writing a suspense story is a fine craft. It is crucial to build the feeling of suspense, but if you are not careful, you can create too much of it and it will lose its effect. Give your readers some calmness between the heaviest scenes, so they do not become overwhelmed with the suspense you have created.

Use Short Sentences

You should vary the length of your sentences throughout your story to have a good rhythm and flow and to avoid repetition. However, when you start writing the most suspenseful parts of your story, use short sentences to increase the pace and build anticipation.

Use Suspenseful Character Development

It is crucial to have strong character development in a suspense story. Do not be afraid to make a drastic change in a character’s situation mid-way through the story. Doing so can help to create drama and make your character more sympathetic and human. Some good ways to create suspense for characters include giving them flaws that threaten to derail their goals or successes, making a character take a step or two backward after making some progression and adding surprises or shocking information to their backstories.

Use Parallel Plotlines

Using parallel plotlines is a great literary device for instantly building suspense. As you write about two different events, your readers will automatically begin to wonder how the two storylines and their characters connect and why they do so. Your readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out how and why the two storylines connect.

Writing a suspense story does not need to be a daunting task. But, it does take a lot of forethought and planning. If you want to try your hand at writing a suspense story, start jotting down ideas and follow these tips. Before you know it, you will have a fantastic story that readers will not want to put down.

Book on fire

Posted in Author, Fiction - Suspense, suspense, Suspense/Thriller, Writers | Leave a comment