On September 11th, 2001, the unthinkable happened when four airplanes were hijacked by militants associated with the extremist group al Qaeda. Of the four planes, two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Almost 3,000 people were killed during these terrorist attacks resulting in not only major US initiatives to fight terrorism but also paths of grief for all Americans. To recognize that grief and commemorate the victims of these 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS New York (LPD-21), one of six Navy ships with New York in the name. This ship was different though. This ship, the USS New York (LPD-21) is a massive ship with 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center and Ground Zero. The steel is forged into its bow of the ship which is significant. It symbolizes the strength and resiliency of citizens as the ship sails forward, around the world. In fact, the motto of the USS New York (LPD-21) is “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”  

Although named after New York, the USS New York (LPD-21) was not constructed there. This mighty ship was constructed at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems/Avondale Shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.

Avondale Shipyard sold, now called Avondale Marine | WorkBoat 

The steel from Ground Zero was melted down at Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, Louisiana. Not only was Amite Foundry and Machine close to the shipyard, they also had the capacity to do a job of this size. You could say the foundry specializes in jobs of this size. They’ve been known to turn down molding jobs for product weighing less than 1,000 pounds and are also known to make mold products that weigh as much 119,000 pounds. Depending upon the economy, Amite Foundry and Machine has a goal of producing 24 million pounds of metal per year. How did they make the bow stem? By melting a total of 24 tons of steel (7.5 tons of that being from Ground Zero) and molding it into the bow stem. With the bow being front and center of the ship, the steel from Ground Zero will lead the way everywhere it goes.  

With the bow completed, the rest of the ship was constructed. To construct a ship, the process starts with steel plates longer and wider than an average bus. These plates are cut into panels, bent on hydraulic presses to match the shape of the ship (or rolled to form the needed contour). Once formed, these panels are painted then welded together to form sub-assemblies of the ship. Once complete, the sub-assemblies are moved by large cranes and transport vehicles across the shipyard to the final build location of the ship. While all of this is occurring, the ship is also built out with internal mechanisms, equipment, cabling, etc. You can find a great video of this process (and really understand the sheer size of the process) here. Once the ship is close to being completed, it will be launched into the ocean where the final touches are added internally and it’s prepped to start sail.  

Final touches include:  

  • A New York City subway sign from the station beneath the World Trade Center  
  • A display case of hats and uniforms from first responders (including a firefighter’s helmet) 
  • A mural of the twin towers with the words Never Forget 
  • A banner with the many  names of the victims of 9/11 

A general timeline of the USS New York (LPD-21) is as follows:  

  1. August 2002: New York’s Governor (George e. Pataki) receive approval for his request that a United States surface warship bestow the name of New York to honor the victims of 9/11. 
  2. August 2003: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is awarded the contract to build the USS New York (LPD-21). 
  3. September 2003: Amite Foundry and Machine melted steel down to form the bow stem of the ship.   
  4. March 2008: the USS New York (LPD-21) was christened in a ceremony at shipyard. 
  5. August 2009: the ship was delivered to the Navy. 
  6. October 2009: the ship set sail for Norfolk, Virginia.  
  7. November 2009: the ship passed the World Trade Center site for the first time. 
  8. November 2009: a commissioning ceremony took place in New York City.
     

From the very beginning to the very end, it took 7 years to build out this magnificent ship. There were many hands involved in the process including those who poured the metal at an unheard-of foundry in Louisiana to every welder who brought the plates together down to the last crew member to board the ship. This 9/11, let’s remember those who made this memorial ship possible in addition to the first. 

 

The prices at the pumps have been higher than ever recently. In fact, US gas prices were the highest they’ve ever been which has many people wondering why they’re high and if the prices will go down. Some are also wondering how it’s made. In reality, the two go hand-in-hand.  

 

Gasoline is made from crude oil (also known as petroleum). Crude oil (or petroleum) is a fossil fuel which means it is produced from the remains of plants and animals. These plants and animals lived millions of years ago and are covered by sediment which when exposed to weather, erosion, and other environmental factors, produces hydrocarbons.

 

Hydrocarbons can be liquid or gas. In this case, due to high pressure levels, the hydrocarbons formed under the ground are liquid hydrocarbons. These liquid hydrocarbons are what we know as crude oil (or petroleum). So, how does that become gasoline for vehicles? Let’s check it out!  

Step One 

When a crude oil source is found, drilling begins. Drills bore holes under the surface of the Earth in the area where crude oil has been found. Fun fact: these drills can go as far as one mile deep! The hole created by the drill acts as a well. With the addition of water into the soil, mud is created and this mud pushes cracked rock to the top of the hole at which point it is removed. This also ensures the crude oil stays below the surface. Once it has been determined the reservoir is ready for oil extraction, a pipe is inserted into the hole.  

Step Two  

This pipe is called a casing. This casing has holes in it that allow oil from the reservoir to enter the pipe and bring the oil to the surface of the Earth. Once recovered, the crude oil is stored in large tanks. From those tanks, oil is transported to a refinery via pipeline, ship, or tank cars on rail.  

Step Three 

At the refinery, crude oil is broken down into a variety of other materials to include gasoline and diesel fuel. In fact, gasoline was discovered when crude oil was originally refined to produce oil and kerosene for lamps, prior to the invention of electricity. With the addition of heat (ranging from roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 1100+ degrees Fahrenheit), crude oil is distilled. Distillation is where we create the various byproducts of crude oil. The byproducts made are dependent upon carbon atoms. Remember, crude oil consists of liquid hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons consist of carbon atoms that link together. These links of carbon atoms can vary in length and depending upon the length, will have different properties, characteristics, or behaviors. 

 

Examples of these chains: a chain with one carbon atom is known as methane. Kerosene consists of 12-15 atom atoms in one chain. The more atoms in one chain, the heavier the byproduct. 

Oil Distillation Process

Step Four 

Once distilled, the byproducts require further refining. Additional refining processes include catalytic cracking, coking, reforming, and alkylation. These are all fancy words that describe the different ways in which the crude oil coming out of the distillation column is further refined and purified. Once finished, it is sent to refinery storage tanks.  

Step Five  

This step is all about blending. From the refinery storage tanks, gasoline is sent to smaller blending tanks via tanker, barge, or pipeline. Here, gasoline is typically blended with ethanol. Blending is done to create different grades of gas. Remember, when you pull up to the pump at a gas station, you see a variety of options. Diesel, E87, E88, etc. These are the grades of gasoline. Different grades of gasoline are made to meet different performance requirements of a vehicle. An example of this is gasoline produced for use in the winter. To improve a vehicle’s ability to start with a cold engine, gasoline is blended to a consistency in which it will vaporize more easily

Step Six 

Once blended and ready for use, tanker trucks deliver the finished fuel to a gas station. The gasoline is stored in tanks underground at each gas station and from these tanks, are pumped up and out of the gas pump once you start it up. If you’re interested in more about that process, check out this article from howstuffworks.com. 

Flow of Crude oil and Gasoline to your pump

So, how does this all tie into the cost of gasoline prices? Well, it comes down to supply and demand. If supply is low but demand is high, prices are higher too. Therefore, if we are not drilling (onshore or offshore) for crude oil or if we are not receiving imported crude oil, we are not refining. If we aren’t refining, the supply is low while demand stays the same or increases. Of course, drilling is a hot button topic and when it comes to importing, supply chain and geopolitical events (which we’ve recently seen) will decrease supply. Thus, gasoline prices and gasoline production go hand-in-hand.

Manufacturing really is the culmination of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). So, let’s go back to the classroom and talking science. More specifically, the science of static electricity.

What is an atom?

model of an atom

To understand static electricity, we need to understand atoms. Atoms are in everything around you; all physical items (except energy) are made of atoms. Particles make up atoms, the three largest particles being protons, electrons, and neutrons. Atoms also have a central core called a nucleus. We won’t go into all the details but if you’re interested, you can find out more information about atoms here.

Protons have a positive charge; electrons have a negative charge; and as you could have guessed, neutrons have a neutral charge. This means that if all things are made of atoms, then all things have charges. Normally, these charges (the electrons and protons) which are on the surface of an object, balance each other out. This is why most objects are electrically neutral. However, an imbalance in the charges occurs when two surfaces rub against each other, causing friction. This friction energizes electrons causing them to leave the surface of one object and move to the surface of another. This causes in imbalance of negative of positive charges on the objects’ surfaces. This imbalance in charges is Static Electricity.

It’s important to note that not all materials, objects, or surfaces have similar electrons. For instance, water and metal are conductors. Conductors have loosely bound electrons, and these tend to transfer more easily. On the other hand, plastic, rubber, and glass are insulators. The electrons of insulators are more tightly bound, meaning they don’t jump to other surfaces easily.

The Balloon & Your Head Trick

Let’s look at an example to understand this a little bit more. We’ll use a well-known ploy used to produce static electricity – a balloon rubbed on your head.

A balloon is made of rubber and rubber is an insulator. Therefore, the balloon has tightly bound electrons. However, human hair is not an insulator; it’s a conductor. This means the electrons from hair easily move. Rubbing a balloon on your head excites the electrons in your hair and they transfer from your hair to the surface of the rubber balloon. However, once the electrons land on the surface of the balloon, they do not move across the surface. This creates an imbalance in charges on the balloon’s surface. The balloon now has more electrons than before and becomes negatively charged (remember electrons have a negative charge). On the other hand, the hair has fewer electrons than before and is therefore more positively charged than before. This imbalance between positive and negative on the two surfaces (balloon and head) creates static electricity.

Static Electricity in Manufacturing

static electricity in manufacturing

While the balloon example is a fun example of static electricity, it’s not always fun. Static electricity can also be dangerous. In fact, manufacturing facilities of all types are concerned with static electricity. Manufacturers work with a variety of materials – some conductors, and some insulators. Due to this, and the relative ease of electron transfer between surfaces, electrostatic discharge (ESD – the “shock” you feel when static electricity occurs between your fingertip and another surface) is of utmost consideration. ESD can ignite flammable mixtures, damage electronic components, attract contaminants to cleanroom environments, and cause products to stick together. To combat this, manufacturers take additional steps to ensure the safety of their workers and the quality of their product. This includes ESD clothing, antistatic wrist straps and ground bracelets, ESD mats, and even zero charge cleaners and hand lotions.

Interested in learning more? You can find more How It’s Made articles on PMG’s website.

Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney

Technical Manager & Coach