Germany and Oil

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 21 Jun 2005 11:53

Lars wrote:All in all this might have given the Germans, say, 2 mio. tonnes more fuel each in 1941 and 1942; perhaps the difference between failure and succes in Russia.


I agree with Shrek - I think this is the first time I have seen lack of fuel in the system suggested as a reason for failure in 1941/2. The only thing I could think of is the rationaly behind going for the Caucasus in 1942 being affected by a lack of fuel. But that pre-supposes that another choice (Moscow) would have had more of a chance in succeeding, something I also doubt.

All the best

Andreas

User avatar
Topspeed
Member
Posts: 4420
Joined: 15 Jun 2004 15:19
Location: Finland

Post by Topspeed » 21 Jun 2005 11:59

What is syntetic oil ? Consists of what ?

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 21 Jun 2005 12:11

The base ingredient in synthetic oil is coal, one of Germany's few natural resources. Refining coal into oil is an arduous and costly process which makes virtually no economic sense if you have access to natural sources of oil.

In the Bergius process, the complex molecules of coal are split, and hydrogen is forced into them to convert them into liquid oil molecules. In the Fischer-Tropsch process, molecules of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, obtained by breaking up molecules of coal with steam, are used to build oil molecules.


Here is a link to the brilliant Sturmvogel site, which posts the exhaustive USSBS. It's very interesting reading.

(quote from the site I linked to)

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 21 Jun 2005 12:14

Topspeed wrote:What is syntetic oil ? Consists of what ?


Produced from coal through the Fischer-Tropsch process invented in the 1920s. The process is today used for GTL production in Malaysia and the Gulf. After the war South Africa developed the German process in order to gain energy independence, and they are now leading the field, AIUI. They found that using the (much cleaner) natural gas instead of coal is helping the economies of the process considerably.

Below a document with some info.

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airc ... becker.htm

Below a document repository on the Fischer Tropsch process:

http://www.fischer-tropsch.org/

Edit: shrek beat me to it (curses!). I would like to point out too that the process is horribly uneconomic.

All the best

Andreas

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 12:21

Shrek and Andreas,

I know that Barbarossa didn´t fail for lack of oil, but it surely made it worse by late 1941. See fx. Joel Hayward´s excellent "Stopped at Stalingrad" and Albert Speer´s "Inside the Third Reich" as to just how much the lack of fuel in late 1941 hampered the front units, how the armament industry was hampered by lack of fuel at this very critical moment, and just how low the Rumanian oil export was to Germany in that period partly because of a row over oil prices at the perfect wrong moment!.

For 1942, Joel Hayward is an excellent source as to how the lack of oil led Germany to the wrong strategy (Case Blue) and how lack of fuel - as perhaps the largest of a number of bottle-necks - hampered the German advance even as early as from mid-July.

FWIIW, I´ve given my take on how to lighten Germany´s oil situation. The answer lay in more oil from Rumania, Hungary, Austria, Poland, and from homegrown synthetic oil made from coal, not in the distant Caucasus.

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 12:23

Andreas,

Do you know whether the process of making synthetic oil from natural gas was known in principle in the 1940s?

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 21 Jun 2005 12:30

Lars wrote:Shrek and Andreas,

I know that Barbarossa didn´t fail for lack of oil, but it surely made it worse by late 1941. See fx. Joel Hayward´s excellent "Stopped at Stalingrad" and Albert Speer´s "Inside the Third Reich" as to just how much the lack of fuel in late 1941 hampered the front units, how the armament industry was hampered by lack of fuel at this very critical moment, and just how low the Rumanian oil export was to Germany in that period partly because of a row over oil prices at the perfect wrong moment!.


Lars - I fully agree on the last two points you made regarding Fall Blau and where the solution lay.

I am not so sure however whether lack of fuel in the economy was a reason for a lack of fuel for frontline units - I always thought that supply bottlenecks imposed by distance and inadequate planning (e.g. about the amount of fuel required to keep going) were more to blame for that. In the same way lack of fuel for the armaments industry would not have mattered to battlefield success in late 1941, since Hitler had already decided to ramp down production in July 1941 (see Müller-Hillebrand 'Das Heer' Vol.3), when he also decided that the war in the east was over.

I do not know if synthesis from gas was known at the time. I know next to nothing about the Fischer-Tropsch process other than it exists. I will go out on a limb in the following though. I doubt it, because gas really was an insignificant resource then IIRC, and most importantly not necessarily an alternative to oil, since it was co-produced with oil. IOW - being able to synthesize fuel from gas does not help you if your problem is access to the oilfields.

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 21 Jun 2005 12:54

I'm possibly going out on a tangent here - but if you want to look for bottleneck problems hampering Barbarossa, you need not look any further than to the state of the rail network in the east. The Germans did not have the means (and probably not even the desire) to fully motorize their army. Lack of oil and rubber in sufficient quantities may have been one reason for this, the overall capacity of the German motor industry may well have been another.

If the Germans had had an enormous amount of tracked vehicles to mechanize their army in 1941, as well as an equally enormous logistical apparatus to maintain such a huge fleet of vehicles and oil in abundance to keep them running, that may have made a difference. However, I don't think any army even today would be able to field 140-odd divisions in all tracked vehicles.

As it was, the Germans were wholly dependent on the efforts of a mere five battalions of Eisenbahntruppen to convert Soviet rail to German gauge and German rolling stock to run on converted lines. And the German rail sector in general had lagged behind due to the Nazis' favouring the motor industry.

Conversely, immediate logistical considerations ought to have played less part in the ultimate failure of Fall Blau in 1942. The Germans were reaching out for oil that they would eventually need, as well as aiming to deny the oil to the Soviets. Whether Germany had any real chance of beating the USSR at all in 1942 I'll leave for you to decide.

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 12:54

Andreas wrote:Lars - I fully agree on the last two points you made regarding Fall Blau and where the solution lay.

I am not so sure however whether lack of fuel in the economy was a reason for a lack of fuel for frontline units - I always thought that supply bottlenecks imposed by distance and inadequate planning (e.g. about the amount of fuel required to keep going) were more to blame for that. In the same way lack of fuel for the armaments industry would not have mattered to battlefield success in late 1941, since Hitler had already decided to ramp down production in July 1941 (see Müller-Hillebrand 'Das Heer' Vol.3), when he also decided that the war in the east was over.

I do not know if synthesis from gas was known at the time. I know next to nothing about the Fischer-Tropsch process other than it exists. I will go out on a limb in the following though. I doubt it, because gas really was an insignificant resource then IIRC, and most importantly not necessarily an alternative to oil, since it was co-produced with oil. IOW - being able to synthesize fuel from gas does not help you if your problem is access to the oilfields.


Andreas,

I should have been clearer, then. Lack of fuel for the armament industry at the home front in late 1941 like lack of fuel for ammo transporting trucks for transports from the factories to rail-road heads, meant that the reverses in January and February 1942 were worse than they had to be. BTW, I agree that Hitler´s decision in July 1941 to go with the Göring plan and produce for the Luftwaffe and wind down production for the Heer was much more damaging.

Over in the what-if folder someone should really start a discussion on what would have happended if armament production priorities weren´t switched in July 1941 :wink:

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 12:58

Shrek wrote: Conversely, immediate logistical considerations ought to have played less part in the ultimate failure of Fall Blau in 1942.


Shrek,

Can you develop this POV, please?

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Post by Jon G. » 21 Jun 2005 13:07

Lars wrote:Can you develop this POV, please?


Certainly :) I'm simply applying common sense here, not basing this on any real facts - but I would assume that 1) the railroad troops had caught up by the summer of 1942, allowing the German army build up to an offensive and in turn also maintaining it with more ease than the case was in 1941, 2) the narrower front making supply an easier task than in 1941 and 3) the option of utilizing Black Sea shipping for part of the distance should have alleviated German supply problems somewhat compared to in 1941.

Nice thread this, but oh it's moving quickly.

User avatar
Topspeed
Member
Posts: 4420
Joined: 15 Jun 2004 15:19
Location: Finland

Post by Topspeed » 21 Jun 2005 13:44

What kinda reduction in costs meant the use of 87 octane fuel instead of 100 octane ?

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 13:45

Shrek wrote:
Lars wrote:Can you develop this POV, please?


Certainly :) I'm simply applying common sense here, not basing this on any real facts - but I would assume that 1) the railroad troops had caught up by the summer of 1942, allowing the German army build up to an offensive and in turn also maintaining it with more ease than the case was in 1941, 2) the narrower front making supply an easier task than in 1941 and 3) the option of utilizing Black Sea shipping for part of the distance should have alleviated German supply problems somewhat compared to in 1941.

Nice thread this, but oh it's moving quickly.


Shrek,

I really don´t know the speed of the railroad soldiers in Case Blue. On the way to Stalingrad the greatest problem was not, AFAIK, the speed of railroad conversion but the fact that there was only one low capacity single track railroad in that direction. How fast the railroads southwards from Rostov were converted after the city fell on 23(?) July 1942 I don´t know either. But I´m almost certain that the railroad troops couldn´t keep up.

The Axis troops only sailed across the Kerch Strait from Crimea to the Taman peninsula after the Taman peninsula was secured in early September when crossing the strait was considered safe. So Black Sea transport wasn´t of much help either.

Sorry if the thread pace is leaving you behind :wink:

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 21 Jun 2005 13:53

Shrek wrote:
Lars wrote:Can you develop this POV, please?


Certainly :) I'm simply applying common sense here, not basing this on any real facts - but I would assume that 1) the railroad troops had caught up by the summer of 1942, allowing the German army build up to an offensive and in turn also maintaining it with more ease than the case was in 1941, 2) the narrower front making supply an easier task than in 1941 and 3) the option of utilizing Black Sea shipping for part of the distance should have alleviated German supply problems somewhat compared to in 1941.

Nice thread this, but oh it's moving quickly.


AIUI the main problem of Fall Blau was not the logistical basis, but simply the inadequacy of the forces assembled for the task, and the inadequacy of the risk assessment WRT to Soviet force strength. The consequence of this twin inadequacy was the heavy reliance on badly equipped allies and German infantry to secure long flanks, because German forces were primarily used at the tip of the advance. IIMU that a better logistical base would not have given the Romanians/Hungarians/Italians the ability to defend themselves much better against a full-blown Soviet armoured assault, and would not have provided the mobile forces to react against such an assault in depth.

Happy to be corrected on all of this.

All the best

Andreas

User avatar
Lars
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: 24 Nov 2004 16:58
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Post by Lars » 21 Jun 2005 14:05

Andreas,

I believe that both the inadequacy of the forces assembled and the lack of the logistical basis were both the reasons for the failure of Case Blue but there was a difference in time. Case Blue was a failure around September 1st when the progress to the Caucasus had slowed to a snail´s pace. It was only long after this date when supplies in general had almost run out that the inadequacies of the minor Axis forces became clear. The inadequant forces ensured disaster by November but the inadequant supplies meant failure to capture the Caucasus way before that.

Return to “Economy”