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Home > Collections & Resources > International Exhibitions > Empire Exhibition

Empire Exhibition


1938 - Glasgow


Congress to be Held in Glasgow (photographs)


An international conference is to be held in Glasgow from June 6 to 10 by the Institution of Petroleum Technologists to discuss the question of oil from shale and cannel. Scotland has the oldest and most important shale oil industry in the world, originated by Dr James Young in 1851. The work of the Scottish Development Council, and of Jamieson & King, has brought cannel into the picture again, the former proving that substantial deposits are available north of the Tweed. The-Institute is to bring together from all parts of the world those who have worked on these and allied subjects. Over 40 papers are to be presented - 10 of them by Scottish authors. Many of the authors are outstanding figures in the realm of oil technology. The Congress is to be presided over by Sir Thomas Holland, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, himself a geologist of international reputation.

The meetings are to be held at the Empire Exhibition, so that members from other parts may have an opportunity during the week of seeing something of the work of the Empire in fields other than oil. Numerous visits have also been planned, including a visit to the Scottish shale oil field when the geological aspects ' as well as the physical and chemical treatment of the oils will be explained to the visitors. The University of Edinburgh and the Lord Provost and Magistrates of the City of Glasgow, are offering receptions to the visitors and their friends, while the technical chemistry laboratories of the Royal Technical College - a department which was founded by James Young in 1870 - will be thrown open for inspection. The Congress marks an important date in the history of oil development, particularly to Scotland. The Institution of Petroleum Technologists is making these facilities available to the general public in Scotland. Information may be, obtained from Mr H.R.J. Conacher. Scottish Oils, Glasgow, or Dr H.B. Nisbet, the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh.

The Scotsman, 27th May 1938



Prospectors Satisfied that Indications Justify a Further Test

DISTINGUISHED visitors from the United States, Japan, and the Continent attended at the Empire Exhibition yesterday the opening session of a conference on oil shale and cannel coal, organised by the Institute of Petroleum.

Papers submitted to the conference discussed the search for petroleum in Scotland, borings in progress in Midlothian, and the question of safety in Scottish shale mines. It was stated that a company which was boring in the Lothians, while not entertaining any hope of large oilfields in the oil shale area, were satisfied that the indications of free petroleum were adequate to justify a further test. Sir James Lithgow, extending a welcome from the Exhibition authorities, said they knew that the shale oil industry was of great importance to the world at large, but it was also of great importance to Scotland. It was one of the industries that had fallen upon evil days but, owing to large-scale development, there was a hope of a future for it. If they could contribute something to the development in Scotland of oil from the various minerals, they would have done a very great service indeed and the Exhibition authorities would have been proud to have housed their conference.

Welcoming the delegates on behalf of the Town Council of Glasgow, Treasurer Ernest Greenhill said there were two excellent reasons why a special welcome should be extended to them. The first was that the founder of the shale oil industry was a Glasgow man - Dr James Young. The second was that their conference was of international importance, particularly so when he reflected that, in addition to Great Britain and the British Commonwealth they had a number of distinguished visitors attending from the United States, France, Holland, Germany. Estonia. Belgium, Italy, Spain and Japan. He firmly believed it was by personal contacts of that kind, by the interchange of views with the object of increasing knowledge, that friendly relations could be maintained between nation and nation.


Mr A. Winstanley, in a paper on safety in Scottish oil-shale mines, said responsibility for accidents in shale mines rested largely with individuals, and the personal factor was more important that regulation. Serious accidents in oil-shale mines were relatively few. The large majority arose from falls of ground, haulage operations and miscellaneous causes. The high inclination of the strata was an important contributory factor. Firedamp was not prevalent, and open lights were largely used, but to guard against possible danger from firedamp, which was liable to occur in small but dangerous quantities if proper precautions were not taken, special attention was paid to the ventilation of all working-places. Many flame safety lamps were used as firedamp detectors. In recent years large numbers of open lights had been replaced by electric safety lamps. By far the greatest number of accidents resulted from falls of ground at working faces. Nearly one and a half million tons of shale yearly was blasted and levered down with crowbars, the roof being secured by props and bars. In spite of the skill and experience of the workmen and the close supervision of officials, accidents from falls of rock arose when men were taking down shale, or when supports had been displaced during blasting. Serious accidents were rare, however but many cuts, bruises, and sprains resulted from handling sharp-edged pieces of shale or by slipping on the steep floors.


Although half a million shots were fired every year, during the last five years there had been only four non-fatal and one fatal accident from blasting. That was an excellent record, and reflected not only the special care given to that operation, but also to the effectiveness of the stringent rules governing shot firing.  Although electricity and machinery were used extensively, not a single accident due to electricity had occurred since 1920, and in the last five years only one underground and two surface accidents were caused by machinery. Some of the minor accidents, both underground and at the surface, might be prevented by the use of protective clothing. Interest in that method of accident prevention was growing steadily, and 625 hard hats, 223 pairs of protective boots, 15 pairs of gloves, and 65 pairs of goggles were in use at the end of 1937. Safety depended very largely upon the skill, sound judgement, and care exercised by each workman.


Dealing with the D'Arcy Exploration Company's search for petroleum in Scotland, Mr B.K.N. Wyllie said that, while not entertaining any hope of large oilfields in the oilshale area, they were satisfied that the indications of free petroleum were adequate to justify a further test. Various shows of oil and gas had been encountered , but it was still too early to review the practical results in detail Admittedly none of the world's major oilfields had been proved to have originated through the action of igneous intrusions on oil shales or other rocks containing solid hydrocarbons , but in view of the known extent of the intrusions in the oilshale group of the Lothians , it obviously could not be denied that vast quantities of oil must have been liberated in those beds, and that, given appropriate structural barriers, it might have accumulated in commercial amounts . It had been reported that the Dunnet Shale was known to have been destroyed over an area of 18 square miles, and a figure of about 17,000,000 tons for the quantity of oil liberated from that source alone had been given. In Scotland the only rocks that could be credited with petroleum prospects were members of the carboniferous system particularly the oil-shale group of the Lothians and Fife. The numerous shows of oil and gas found in the Scottish shale mines had been accepted by some geologists as proof that the shale measures, at least in some parts had functioned as sources of natural petroleum.


Once the possibility of a commercial accumulation of oil in the Scottish shale measures had been admitted, the choice of a locale for testing it presented little difficulty. After detailing a number of boring experiments, he said that the Pumpherston anticline was, on paper, the best-looking structure in the West Lothian group. Oil was actually encountered in No.1 mine, and at one time some three barrels were being collected weekly. Describing another location on the D'Arcy-Cousland ridge, he said drilling commenced early in September 1937, and was still proceeding. A number of oil and gas bearing sands had been traversed, but testing of these was still incomplete, and discussion of the practical results of the boring at the present time would therefore be premature. A paper giving geological notes on the borings for oil now in progress at Cousland and D'Arcy, Midlothian, was given by Mr F. W. Anderson and Mr J.B. Simpson. The authors described in detail the strata passed through by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's bore at Cousland, and referred to the Anglo-American Oil Company's bore at D'Arcy Farm.

Submitting a paper on "Conditions of Deposition of the Oil Shales and Cannel Coals of Scotland," Mr M. Macgregor, F. G. S., explained that the valuable oil shales of Scotland occurred in the lower part of the carboniferous formation. While that group of sediments had a wide distribution in Scotlands it was only locally that it contained workable oil shales. Those were limited in their occurrence to the development of the calciferous sandstone series found in Mid and West Lothian. That county delimitation was not quite accurate, however for the shale fields extended northwards to the southern coasts of Fife between Burnlisland and Inverkeithing, and included on their south-west margin part of the county of Lanark.


Dealing with oil yields from cannel coal, he said that by far the richest was that of the Boghead Cannel, a seam found near the base of the productive coal measures in the Bathgate-Armadale district. That seam which yielded as much as 120 or even 130 gallons of oil per ton, had long been exhausted, and no other deposit of comparable richness was known. Nevertheless there did exist -  especially in East Fife and the Lothians - important reserves of cannel at certain horizons and the possibility of utilising them was clearly a matter of extreme importance. They would not be always accessible to the same extent as they were to-day, and the question was therefore, a matter of some urgency. Accessible reserves of workable materials, expressed in terms of possible annual output and of expected oil yield on distillation, were the essential data required. For purposes of commercial exploitation at present the oil yield should not be below 40 gallons a ton, and the ash content must be low. Speaking on "The Retorting of Oil Shales in Scotland," Mr D. Stewart and Mr C.E. Forbes said that the yield of oil and naphtha from the oil shale mines in Scotland averaged from 18 to 25 gallons per ton, as compared with 25 to 45 gallons in the early days of the industry. Approximately one and a half million tons of shale were mined in 1937. Although considerable improvements had taken place in the different branches of oilshale mining the future would probably witness still further advancement, said Mr J.B. Sneddon past president of the Mining Institute Scotland , and Messrs W. Caldwell and J. Stein, of the Mining Department , Scottish Oils, Ltd . They submitted a joint paper on "Seventy-Five Years of Oil Shale Mining."


Mr Swen V. Bergh, describing shale oil production in Sweden , said there were approximately 5,000,000, 000 tons of oil shale in Central and Southern Sweden . The richest of these deposits, were found in Kinnekulle , in the province of Nerike and it was estimated that there were 630,000,000 tons in seams approximately 30 feet thick representing roughly 32,000,000 tons of shale oil. They had a retorting plant, designed by himself, which had a throughput of 75 tons of shale per day, giving an oil yield of 3 tons.



Weathering Economic Blizzard

In the evening the Institute of Petroleum held their first banquet, in the Grosvenor Restaurant, Glasgow, at which the guest of the evening was Lord Cadman.

Proposing the toast of “The Scottish Oil industry,” Mr Murray Macgregor stated that the industry had encountered a succession of storms which might well have wrecked it.  But those economic blizzards had been regarded by the industry as a challenge and an incentive to new endeavour, rather than as an obstacle.  During its eighty years existence it had become more technically perfected.
Replying Mr W. Fraser said they had been faced during the last twenty years with a serious diminution in operations, and he hoped they would be able to develop it to its peak again.

Lord Cadman, referring to the Empire Exhibition, said it was worthy of its site, its surroundings, and the Empire of which, for a few months, it was the cultural and commercial centre.  It was well, also to remember in those troubled times that, in the words of the king on the opening day, the Exhibition stands before us to testify to that willing co-operation which is the hallmark of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”  Let them hope that the Exhibition would still further encourage the spirit of co-operation, not conflict, would rule our lives.

Replying, Mr Cecil M. Weir, chairman of the Exhibition, emphasised the part played by the workmen of Scotland, who had made the Exhibition possible and built it in record time.  That he genuinely believed to be a great achievement.  He believed it was evidence that Scotland, in energy, resourced and enterprise, stood where she always stood and any defeatist stories about her were utterly false.

The toast of “The Institute” was proposed by Mr G. Egloff, America, and replied to by the president, Lieut-Colonel S.J.M. Auld.

Scottish Branch of Institute Formed

Advantage was taken of the conference to convene a meeting of the members of the Institute of Petroleum residing in Scotland.

Colonel S.J.M. Auld, the president, presided over a meeting of some 30 or 40 members, and other interested persons.  He reported that a number of letters had been received from members unable to attend the meeting, expressing their approval of the suggestion of a branch.  Sir John Cargill, a founder member of the Institute, had welcomed the suggestion, and promised his full support.  Mr H.M. MacIntyre proposed, and Mr G.H. Smith seconded, and it was unanimously agreed, that a Scottish branch of the Institute be formed.  It was also unanimously agreed that Mr R. Crichton be the first chairman of the branch, and Professor W.M. Cumming its first secretary.

The Scotsman, 8th June1938

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