Scottish shale Scottish shale

Aberdeen Oil Works

Alternative names:
Sandilands Chemical Works
Former parish and county:
City of Aberdeen Parish, Aberdeenshire
Local authority:
Aberdeen city
The chemical works were established in about 1848, and crude oil produced here from about 1857
Oil production ceased in about 1861, the chemical works remained in operation into the 1950's
Current status of site:
Site cleared and now occupied by a retail park and associated car parking


The substantial Sandilands chemical works were constructed adjacent to Aberdeen gas works and were principally concerned with the processing of tars and other by-products from gas production. Partners of the firm of John Miller & Co. included many leading figures in the early oil industry in Scotland. For a short period, crude oil was produced from Boghead Coal, presumably hoping to evade the attention of James Young. Production appears to have ceased in about 1861 when Young brought legal action against the firm for infringement of his patent.

Redwood notes:

"In 1857... Miller and Sons had started their work at Aberdeen where crude oil was produced from Boghead Coal. This work did a flourishing business in both crude and refined oils until the year 1864, in which year the work was closed, owing partly to the high price of Boghead Coal, but perhaps more particularly to the fact that Young had discovered that Miller and Sons were infringing his patents."

Successive editions of the Aberdeen Post Office Directory record the changing output of the works:

  • MILLER, John and Co., manufacturing chemists, Sandilands chemical works, Links (1849-66)
  • MILLER, John and Co., manufacturing chemists and oil refiners, Sandilands chemical works, Links (1867-76)
  • MILLER, John & Co., manure manufacturers, tar distillers & paraffin wax refiners, Sandilands Chemical works, Links (1877-80)
  • MILLER, John & Co., coal tar distillers, naptha, benzole, vitriol, manure and albumen manufacturers (1881-85 and later)

By 1902, the firm of John Miller & Co. were listed as producers of naphtha, benzole, creosote oil, pitch, asphalt, sulphate of ammonia, sulphuric acid, artificial manures, and refiners of paraffin wax and ozokerite. The works were taken over by I.C.I. in about c.1928 and were latterly operated by Scottish Agricultural Industries as a fertilizer plant.

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  • Newspaper references
    • Evidence presented to the House of Lords on the Edinburgh & Dunfermline Railway Bill 1862:

      Mr. W. McClintock, practical chemist, stated that the Bathgate shale contained such a very large proportion of refuse that it was necessary to extract the paraffin on the spot as it would not pay to ship it in its raw state. Lately a cargo was sent to Aberdeen upon which a loss of £5 per ton was incurred.

      Scotsman, 17th July 1862