Archibald Geikie’s role in the establishment of the scottish oil shale industry

Jonathan Craig*, John R. Underhill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Archibald Geikie played a fundamental, but largely unrecognized, role in the establishment of the Scottish oil shale industry by providing James ‘Paraffin’ Young with the critical information about the location, thickness and probable geographical extent of organic-rich shales during their field visit in 1858. Young subsequently used the observations to determine where to buy leases for commercial oil shale extraction and production before any competitors emerged. Geikie acquired his critical knowledge of the area whilst preparing the first map and memoir of the Edinburgh area published in 1859 and 1861, respectively. In 1866, Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company Limited opened the Addiewell works, the largest oil shale works in the world at the time. By the late 1860s, there were over 120 works distilling oil in Scotland, mostly from the shales of the Lothians. Eventually, more than 22 million gallons of crude oil a year were produced in the Midland Valley in an industry that employed c. 40 000 people. Although the Scottish oil shale industry eventually closed in the 1960s, Geikie’s legacy lives on through a better understanding of the geology of the Midland Valley and the renewed interest in extracting oil and gas from the shales buried beneath.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAspects of the Life and Works of Archibald Geikie
PublisherGeological Society of London
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781786204028
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2019

Publication series

NameGeological Society Special Publication
ISSN (Print)0305-8719
ISSN (Electronic)2041-4927

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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