02 December 2011

What is Union Spirit?

Union Spirit is (or was) biofuel made as a by-product of sugar refining in Natal, South Africa.

Someone asked the question "What is Union Spirit" in a newsgroup devoted to human rights, and I think it was a reference to some political slogan being used in Burma alias Myanmar.

But I remember it as a brand of petrol.

It was originally (in the 1940s) sold only in Natal, and mainly in and around Durban, where many garages would have a Union pump. In those days garages sold several brands of petrol. There were no "one brand" garages. The commonest brands were Caltex, Shell, Pegasus and Atlantic. Pegasus later became Mobil and is now Engen. Atlantic became BP.

In the Transvaal province in the 1950s there was Satmar, which was made from torbanite (oil shale) and later Sasol (made from coal).

In the 1960s there was one garage in Johannesburg that sold Union Spirit. It was in Jeppestown, and was in demand among sports car drivers because at that time the regular petrol sold at other garages was 87 octane, and not suitable for high-compression engines, even at Johannesburg's altitude

Union Spirit was 100 octane.

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