Diesel shortage in the Third Reich

Diesel shortage in the Third Reich
Diesel shortage in the Third Reich

In the article "TV" Panther ":" thirty-four "of the Wehrmacht?" the amount consumed by the kriegsmarine. As you know, the Germans launched an unlimited submarine war, and the submarines of that era used diesel engines. However, according to many readers, the shortage of diesel fuel in the Third Reich is nothing more than a myth, designed to hide the protectionist policy of Karl Maybach, who by all means promoted his products (gasoline engines and transmissions) into the country's armed forces. But in fact, there was a lot of diesel fuel in Germany, and there could be even more, thanks to the widespread introduction of technologies for the production of synthetic liquid fuels.

Diesel shortage in the Third Reich

Without in the least challenging the powerful lobbying capabilities of the Maybach firm, let's try to understand how much diesel fuel was in Germany, whether it was enough for the country's needs and whether fascist Germany, if she felt such a need, could quickly increase the production of diesel fuel.

Liquid fuel balance of the Third Reich

To begin with, let's answer a simple question: was there enough liquid fuel in Germany at all? To do this, consider several tables, and the first of them is devoted to the total supply of fuel in Germany.


The first column is fuel imports, which is expected to fall, but, in contrast to it, the production of synthetic fuel (Synthetic production) is growing. Even battle trophies (Booty column) are taken into account. As you can see from the table, the invasion of Poland brought nothing to Germany, but the capture of France in 1940 added 745 thousand tons of fuel to the fuel balance of the Third Reich, and the invasion of the USSR - another 112 thousand tons. the oil they had expropriated from their surrendered ally. Thus, the total supply of liquid fuel in the period 1938-1943. grew, although not very stable.

Further … Oh, this German statistics!

Here is another table that is very well known on the Internet. It sums up the fuel balance, but not for all types of fuel, but only for aviation gasoline (aviation spirit), motor gasoline (motor gasoline) and diesel fuel (diesel oil).


And what do we see? First of all, we are interested in the last column of the table, in which there are 2 columns: "Total cons", which in this case means "the total consumption of all types of fuel listed in the table" and "Total prod", that is, their total production, where, by the way, "expropriations", that is, trophies, are also included. And, I must say, these data indicate an extremely tense situation with liquid fuel in Nazi Germany in 1940-1942.

So, 1940. In total, 4,513 thousand tons were obtained from all sources (we repeat - we are not talking about the entire set of liquid fuel, but only about aviation and automobile gasoline and diesel fuel), but 4,006 thousand tons were spent. would - the balance is observed, but if we forget that in 1940 in France 745 thousand tons of fuel were seized. True, we do not know how much of it was the fuel of the three categories listed above, it is possible, for example, that some of the "French" fuel was fuel oil, but nevertheless it should be understood that in 1940 the German industry either brought the fuel balance very closely to zero, and most likely - worked in the negative.

As for 1941 and 1942. here the minus is already quite obvious.With the attack on the USSR, Germany, naturally, lost supplies of Soviet oil, which, incidentally, was compensated to a certain extent by the seizure of 112 thousand tons of fuel, mainly in the USSR. Nevertheless, even this seizure did not save Germany from a negative balance, and by the end of 1941, the reserves of gasoline and diesel fuel were almost halved - from 1,535 thousand tons to 797 thousand tons.

In 1942, Germany somehow managed to make ends meet: 4,988 thousand tons were produced, 5,034 thousand tons spent.Total was a minus of 46 thousand tons - it seems not so much, but a minus there is a minus. But in 1943, it was as if there was an abundance: while 5 858 thousand tons of gasoline and diesel fuel were obtained from all sources, the consumption was only 5 220 thousand tons. the fuel crisis in Germany has been overcome, and the country, under the wise leadership of the great Fuhrer, is confidently marching into a bright fascist future.

Moreover: according to the data in the table, the main source of Germany's "fuel prosperity" is nothing more than diesel fuel. As a matter of fact, the balance of aviation and motor gasoline is positive, however, it is not clear how much. The fact is that the data of German statistics, how to put it … Traditionally, inaccurate. Take, for example, aviation gasoline: it is indicated that its supply was 1,917 thousand tons, and consumption - 1,825 thousand tons, which gives a positive balance of 92 thousand tons. This is exactly how much the stocks of aviation fuel should have grown in Germany. However, according to the table, they increased from 324 thousand tons to 440 thousand tons, that is, the increase was not 92, but 116 thousand tons … And which of the figures is correct?

Here I would like to note an important feature of the "punctual and pedantic" Germans - working with their statistical data, you should constantly check them with the simplest arithmetic operations. After all, where, for example, could there have been an error with the leftovers? It is possible that figures from different sources were included in the table, that is, data on fuel residues were collected by one structure, and production and consumption - by another (or others). As a result, the Germans honestly rewrote the presented data into the balance, and the fact that they do not agree with each other - well, who cares?

But back to diesel fuel: if you believe the data in the table, then in 1943 the production of diesel fuel drastically exceeded the consumption of this type of fuel: 1,793 thousand tons were produced, and only 1 307 thousand tons were consumed. The surplus was 486 thousand tons. ! It seems to be an excellent result … If only you do not read the note to the same table. And do not pay attention to the fact that the consumption of diesel fuel in 1943 is somehow very suspiciously lower than the consumption in both 1941 and 1942.

Well, let's take a look at another table, where production and fuel consumption are scheduled monthly, and at the same time - the balances are displayed for each month.


What do we see there? Yes, actually, nothing, because the compilers of the table, for unclear reasons, ignored such important information as the totals. But if we are not too lazy and recalculate the consumption of diesel fuel in 1943, then we will see the following. First, the table does not contain data on consumption in the 4th quarter of 1943. Secondly, the total amount of fuel consumption in the first 9 months. 1943 is … 1 307 thousand tons! In other words, the gigantic surplus of diesel fuel in 1943 was obtained only due to the fact that not the annual consumption of diesel fuel was taken into account, but only for three quarters out of four.

But how to understand how much fuel the Germans consumed in the 4th quarter of 1943 in order to balance the balance? It is very simple - although the table presented above does not contain data on consumption, it contains data on the remains of diesel fuel at the beginning and end of 1943. Making simple calculations, we find that the amount of diesel fuel increased by 106 thousand tons. on the production of diesel fuel in the two tables above are slightly different - the sum of monthly production gives 1,904 thousand tons, and not 1,793 thousand tons, and if the data of the “yellowish” table is correct, then the consumption of diesel fuel in 1943 was not 1,307, and 1,798 thous.T.

Interestingly, the same problem exists with motor gasoline - there are no data for the 4th quarter of 1943 on production and consumption. But the remnants still show its growth in 1943.

We will return to the general balance of diesel fuel a little later, but for now we note that taking into account all of the above, the balance for the three types of fuel of the Third Reich in 1943 still turns out to be positive: aviation gasoline stocks increased by 116 thousand tons, gasoline - by 126 thousand tons, and diesel fuel, as mentioned above - by 106 thousand tons. Thus, the total surplus for these three types of fuel gives 345 thousand tons. It seems that we can say that the problems with fuel in Germany have been overcome, but…

But this is if we do not think about why the Third Reich managed to go into a surplus in gasoline and diesel fuel. But if we dig deeper, we will see that, firstly, this surplus is largely provided by trophy Italian fuel (140,000 tons, although perhaps not all of them relate to aviation and auto gasoline and diesel fuel), and, most importantly, the regime of the most severe economy of these fuels in the civil sector.

What did the Third Reich save on?

Of course, in the civilian sector - after all, there was nothing else. See the following table


From this table we see that the volume of consumption of liquid fuel in the civilian sector has been reduced from 1,879 thousand tons in 1940 to 868 thousand tons in 1943. Moreover, the consumption of diesel fuel has been reduced from 1,028 thousand tons to all only 570 thousand tons. What does this mean?

If Germany had not been able to drastically reduce the consumption of diesel fuel by the civil sector, and it would have remained in 1942-1943 at the level of 1940-1941, then the Third Reich would have been waiting for a "diesel collapse" - already in 1942 diesel fuel reserves would have been completely exhausted, and production would not cover consumption in any way. That is, a number of industries that used diesel fuel would simply stand up - well, or German submarines would have to be put on hold, thereby seriously limiting submarine warfare.

But how did Germany manage to achieve such impressive savings in liquid fuel in general, and diesel fuel in particular in the civil sector? The answer is very simple and can be seen from the above table - due to the "general gasification" of civilian industries, including the massive transfer of transport to gas fuel. The consumption of gas by the civilian sector increased from 226 thousand tons (in terms of liquid fuel) to 645 thousand tons. thousand tons in 1940 to 1,513 thousand tons in 1943

In other words, the “fuel well-being” that was allegedly achieved in Germany in 1943 is purely imaginary, a positive fuel balance was achieved only thanks to the strictest fuel economy in the civil sector and its general gasification. But this was not enough, and in 1943 gas as fuel began to be consumed for military needs (the last line of the table, 75 thousand tons).

Thus, we see that there was never an abundance of liquid fuels in the Third Reich. Perhaps something similar was observed in early 1944, but then the Allies finally turned their attention to German factories that produce synthetic fuel and began to bomb them, after which fuel production fell dramatically and Hitler's armed forces began to experience a permanent shortage of fuel. …

Could Germany Increase Fuel Production? Obviously not, because if I could, it would definitely increase - both the military and civilian sectors obviously needed it. It should be understood that the transfer of a significant part of the civil sector from liquid fuel to gas is a rather costly undertaking, which you cannot just go to - only an obvious shortage of liquid fuel could push the Germans to do this.And the use of gas fuel directly in the armed forces speaks about anything, but just not about the sufficiency of liquid fuel reserves.

Nevertheless, in 1942 and 1943, German ships went to sea, planes flew, tanks and cars regularly moved on and off roads. In other words, although the fuel situation was quite tense, it still did not lead to collapse. But if we look at the dynamics of the production and consumption of diesel fuel, we will see that in 1940-1941 Germany, even without the "dieselization" of tank troops, could hardly satisfy the existing demand for diesel fuel. At the beginning of 1941, its reserves were 296 thousand tons, and at the beginning of 1944 - already only 244 thousand tons.That is, it was impossible to provide the Wehrmacht and SS tank forces with diesel fuel if they were switched to diesel fuel within the framework of the existing volumes of diesel fuel production. … It was also impossible to increase the total production of liquid fuel in the Third Reich - if it were possible, then Germany would have done it. Thus, the only source of increasing the production of diesel fuel was its production instead of a certain amount of aviation or motor gasoline. After all, if the Germans, say, from 1942 would begin to transfer their tanks to diesel engines, they would no longer need gasoline in such quantities. And if instead of this gasoline it was possible to produce a similar amount of diesel fuel, then, of course, no shortage of diesel fuel would have happened during the "dieselization" of the "Panzerwaffe".

Thus, the question "Was there a shortage of diesel fuel in the Third Reich, preventing the transfer of tank troops from gasoline engines to diesels?" boils down to the question "Could Germany voluntarily change the structure of synthetic fuel production?" Say, to reduce the production of motor gasoline by 100 thousand tons in 1943, but at the same time to increase the production of diesel fuel by the same 100 thousand tons or so?

According to the author, the Third Reich did not have such an opportunity.

A small lyrical digression. The author of this article, alas, is not a chemist and has never worked in the fuel industry. He honestly tried to understand the issue, but, not being a professional, he could, of course, make some mistakes in his reasoning. Many readers have repeatedly noted that in a number of cases, comments to articles published on "VO" turn out to be more professional than the articles themselves, and the author will be sincerely grateful for any constructive criticism of the reasoning that will be presented below.

Technical features of the production of synthetic fuels in the Third Reich

What is the difference between diesel and gasoline? Of course, the chemical composition. Diesel fuel is a chemical compound of heavy hydrocarbons, and gasoline is light. In the production of gasoline and diesel fuel, a mineral is usually used - oil, and this is done in the following way. The oil undergoes the so-called atmospheric distillation, as a result of which it is divided into several fractions. The mass fraction of these fractions depends on the chemical composition of the oil.

In other words, by distilling one ton of domestic West Siberian oil, we will get about 200 kg of gasoline fractions, that is, raw materials suitable for the manufacture of various types of gasoline, 95 kg of kerosene fraction, about 190 kg of the fraction used for the manufacture of diesel fuel, and almost half a ton of fraction, from which it will be possible to produce fuel oil in the future. That is, having at our disposal one ton of oil, we have no power to decide whether to make one ton of gasoline or one ton of diesel fuel from it - how much will be obtained by distilling it, so much will turn out, and in parallel with the fuel we need, a certain amount of gasoline will be formed, diesel fuel and fuel oil. And if, for example, we do not need 190 kg of raw materials for diesel fuel, but twice as much, we cannot get it from the ton of oil we have - we will have to distill the second ton.

As you know, the Germans, in the absence of any sufficient amount of fossil raw materials, were forced to produce synthetic fuel. At that time, two different technologies for producing synthetic fuels were known and widely used in Germany (but there were others): this is the Bergius method, also called hydrogenation


And the Fischer-Tropsch method


Even a cursory glance at the synthesis scheme for these methods shows that they were very different. Nevertheless, the common thing between both of these methods was that as a result of working with coal, a certain analogue (not a copy!) Of natural oil was obtained, that is, a certain liquid (in the case of the Bergius method, it is sometimes called oil) containing various fractions of hydrocarbons … This liquid, subsequently, was subjected to a process similar to the distillation of natural oil, during which it, like oil, was divided into fractions from which it was subsequently possible to make gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, etc.

And if we look at the statistical data on the production of various types of fuel by the methods of Bergius and Fischer-Tropsch, we will see that the share of diesel fuel is extremely small: according to the table below, in the 1st quarter of 1944, a total of 1,482 thousand tons of "artificial" fuel was produced. method, including aviation gasoline 503 thousand tons (33, 9%), motor gasoline 315 thousand tons (21, 3%) and only 200 thousand tons of diesel fuel (13, 5%).


Was it possible to change this structure by somehow controlling the chemical processes so as to increase the yield of fractions suitable for the manufacture of diesel fuel at the expense of gasoline fractions? This is highly doubtful, since, ultimately, the amount of such fractions will directly depend on the chemical composition of the coal used as a raw material in the production of synthetic fuel. Nevertheless, the author came across references that can be interpreted in such a way that it was possible for the Fischer-Tropsch method. This seems to be confirmed by the above statistics - the share of diesel fuel in the total production of synthetic fuel produced by the Fischer-Tropsch method is as much as 20.4%, and not about 16% as in the case of hydrogenation.

But the problem is that despite the fact that in 1939 Germany had an equal number of factories operating according to the Bergius method and according to the Fischer-Tropsch method (7 plants each), production volumes were completely incomparable - for example, in the 1st quarter of 1944. by hydrogenation, 945 thousand tons of fuel were obtained, and according to Fischer-Tropsch - only 127 thousand tons.Consequently, even if the Fischer-Tropsch method allows increasing the output of diesel fuel per ton of raw materials consumed, it still could not help The Third Reich to provide the Wehrmacht with a sufficient amount of diesel fuel for the "dieselization" of the Panzerwaffe - within the framework of the factories available to Germany, of course.

It is possible that if Germany had invested in the construction of a large number of factories operating according to the Fischer-Tropsch method even before the war and in its early years, they could have ensured the transfer of the tank forces of the Wehrmacht and SS to diesel fuel. But, apparently, in 1942, during the development of the T-V "Panther" tank and taking into account the existing structure of synthetic fuel production, the Third Reich really did not have the opportunity to ensure the transfer of its tank troops to diesel, simply due to the lack of diesel fuel …

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