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Social Science Exhibition


1880 - Edinburgh



The section met at a quarter-past eleven in the Hall of the Chamber of Commerce, George IV Bridge.



After luncheon, in the Economy and Trade Section there was read and interesting account by Mr John Calderwood, F.R.S.E., on the Scotch Mineral oil industry, which began in 1830 with the discovery by Mr Young of a means of obtaining oil containing paraffin from cannel coal.

There was no discussion, but Mr McLagan, M.P., paid a high compliment to the author of the paper.


Aberdeen Journal, 12th October 1880

The Scotch Mineral Industry


Mr. John Calderwood, F.R.S.E.. in a Paper on 'The Scotch Mineral Oil Industry" gave a brief sketch of the history of the industry, beginning with its origin in Mr Young's dis¬covery, in 1850, of the method of obtaining paraffin oil containing paraffin from cannel coal, in such quantity as to make its manu¬facture commercially successful. The thirty year since Mr. Young's patent was taken out were viewed in three periods: the first, from 1850 to 1864, during which Mr. Young's patent was in force; the second, from 1864 to 1872, when the Scots oil-fever raged, and many small crude oil works appeared, and rapidly succumbed before petroleum competition on the one hand, and the increased cost of shale and coal on the other; and the third period, from 1872 onward, when the trade, now chiefly in the hands of large companies, began, and has con¬tinued to carry on a vigorous struggle to maintain its position in the face of tremendous opposition from cheap petroleum. In 1871 there were fifty-one mineral oil works in Scotland, the larger number of which were, however, comparatively small establishments, producing crude oil alone. There are now eighteen firms carrying on the business; but, notwithstanding the great reduction in the number of the works, the following statistics show that no falling off has taken place in the quantity of shale distilled, and that the more valuable products—oil, paraffin, mineral lubricating oil, and sulphate of ammonia—have been largely increased

Shale used . . . . 800,000 tons. So0,000 too.

Crude oil produced . 25,000 000 gals. 29,000 gals

Naphtha and burning oil 11,250,000 "11,400,000"

Lubricating oil • • . 2,500,000 v, 6,000,000 H

Paraffin scales . . . 5,800 tons. 9,200 tons.

Sulphate of ammonia. 2,350 "4,750"

The material used by Mr. Young originally at the parent work, at Bathgate, was the well-known Boghead or Torbane hill coal, which yielded 120 to 130 gallons of crude oil per too. Shale began to be used in 1862; and the materials employed are the bituminous shales of the calciferous [illegible] series of the carboniferous formation, and the [illegible] shales and wild parrots occurring in the coal measures and carboniferous limestone series. Of the shale, raised at present, fully 86 per cent. is obtained in the counties of Mid and West Lothian from the calciferous sandstone series. The capital embarked in the trade is estimated at 1,300,000/.; the men employed number about 5,400, of whom 2,200 are en¬gaged in connection with mining operations, and the remainder, 13,200, are employed in the oil works. The total wages paid annually amount to about 326,000 L. The fuel consumed annually is estimated to be 350,000 tons. The refrigerating machines employed in tooling the heavy oil, so as to crystallise the paraflia and admit of its separation from the former, are capable of producing 30,000 tons of ice per annum, if used for that purpose. The value of die various products to the public was considered, and it was pointed out that instead of the miserable light given by tallow candles or train-oil lamps, which were the only sources of artificial light in rural district* before the advent of paraffin oil, one can now enjoy, at the cost of [illegible], light equivalent to that given forth by twenty sperm. candles for five hours, the retail price of paraffin oil being taken at per gallon. London gas, selling it at 3. 3rf. per 1,000 cubic feet, will, when consumed with the best form of burner, give light of the same intensity for tour hours; but, with the burner in general use* results far inferior to this are obtained. Attention was called to the important characteristic of mineral lubricating oil—viz., that, even when diffused through cotton waste, &c. it does not absorb oxygen, and that it is, therefore, free from all liability to spontaneous combustion, or to become cloggy. The importance of paraffin as a caudle-making material, and to matchmakers, was adverted to; and the great addition to the production of the valuable manure, sulphate of ammonia was likewise noticed. It was urged, in conclusion, that the importance of the mineral oil industry may be seen from what it had done in the way of utilising mineral deposits formerly unused; in opening up a new field for the employment of capital and labours in supply¬ing to the public, at a remarkably low price, illuminating and lubricating materials possessed of special properties, to which no bodies formerly used could lay claim; and, finally, [illegible] greatly increasing the supply of one of the most valuable manures. Satisfaction was expressed that the connection between the beginning of the industry in Derbyshire and Scotland, and its development in America, was now fully recognised, as appeared from Mr. I. Lawrence Smith's Report of the Judges of Group III. of the Centennial Exhibition, at Philadelphia, in 1876. The Paper was illustrated by a map, showing the position of the oil-works in Mid and West Lothian, and by a stratigraphical section of the oil-bearing shales in Scotland, prepared by Lumsden, M.E., of Addiewell.


Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1880

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