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Glen Davis Shale Oil Works

The Glen Davis Shale Oil Works was a shale oil extraction plant in Glen Davis, New South Wales, Australia which operated from 1940 until 1952 and was the last oil-shale operation in Australia until the Stuart Oil Shale Project in the late 1990s.[1] For the period of 1865–1952, it provided one fifth of the shale oil produced in Australia.[2]


The shale oil industry at Glen Davis was developed for production of shale oil for national defence purposes,[3] although the basis of this project was the 1934 report of the Newnes Investigation Committee, which looked at ways to decrease the number of unemployed miners in the region.[4] The project was operated by National Oil Proprietary Pty. Ltd.,[5] a company created as a special purpose vehicle by G. F. Davis of Davis Gelantine. A public notice in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, on 28 May 1936, invited offers for developing the oil industry in the Glen Davis area.[3] The company was established by private interests with financial support from the Commonwealth of Australia and New South Wales governments.[5]

Construction of the shale oil works started in 1938 and the plant was commissioned in 1939, with operations starting on 3 January 1940.[2][5][6] During World War II, shale oil produced by the Glen Davis Shale Oil Works was considered to be a strategic resource.[3][7] In 1941, 4,273,315 imperial gallons (19,426,870 l; 5,132,037 US gal) of shale oil were produced.[8]

In 1942, under the National Security Act, the government took over the company and in August 1949 acquired the private shareholdings. After expansion in 1946, a shortage of mined shale reduced its output. In December 1950, it was decided to end the project. In 1951, the last full year before closure, it produced only 1,452,000 imperial gallons (6,600,000 l; 1,744,000 US gal).[4] Government funding ceased in 1952, and Glen Davis was closed on 30 May.[9][10] Although some syndicates had an interest to the facility, no deal was concluded.[11] The closure caused a strike by miners, which ended after 26 days without success when the Australian Council of Trade Unions decided not to support the strike.[12]


The 55,000 acres (22,000 ha) mining and shale oil extraction complex was located in Gindantherie, Goolloinboin, Barton, Glen Alice, and Capertee parishes of Cook and Hunter counties.[3] The plant used room-and-pillar mining techniques, and employed 170 miners.[5] The shale was crushed by a Pennsylvania single-roll type crusher and was then conveyed into the retorts.[5]

The company planned to use two tunnel ovens, each with a daily capacity of 336 tons, designed by AS Franz Krull of Estonia and Lurgi AG of Germany, similar to those used by some oil shale industries in Estonia.[2][5][13][14] However, for economic reasons, it was decided in March 1939 to instead use a technology that had been employed in the closed Newnes Shale Oil Works, and 64 modified Pumpherston retorts were transferred from Newnes. Other equipment was imported from the United States, including a second bench of 44 retorts added in 1946.[4][5] Retorts were heated by coal obtained from nearby coal mines.[15]

The oil was treated to create motor oil and was then transported by a 30-mile (48 km) pipeline to storage tanks at Newnes Junction.[5][8]


  1. ^ Dyni, John R. (2006). "Geology and resources of some world oil-shale deposits. Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5294" (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey: 5–7. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  2. ^ a b c Mägi, Vahur (10 August 2008). Estonian Oil-shale Technology in Australia. International Committee for the History of Technology 2008 Conference. Victoria, British Columbia: University of Victoria. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d "National Oil Proprietary Limited Agreement Ratification Act 1937" (PDF). 
  4. ^ a b c Spooner, W. H. (17 June 1952). "This Is Why Glen Davis Has Had To Close Down". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Kraemer, A.J.; Thorne, H.M. (July 1951). Oil Shale Operations in New South Wales, Australia (PDF). United States Department of the Interior. pp. 4–44. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  6. ^ "Oil From Shale. Production To-day". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 January 1940. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  7. ^ "Offer For Glen Davis Oil Plant By Syndicate". The Age. 27 June 1951. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  8. ^ a b "Glen Davis". Lithgow Tourism Information Website. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  9. ^ Dyni, John R. (2010). "Oil Shale". In Clarke, Alan W.; Trinnaman, Judy A. Survey of energy resources (PDF) (22 ed.). WEC. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-0-946121-02-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  10. ^ An Assessment of Oil Shale Technologies (PDF). United States Office of Technology Assessment. DIANE Publishing. June 1980. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-1-4289-2463-5. NTIS order #PB80-210115. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  11. ^ "Offer For Glen Davis Oil Plant By Syndicate". The Age. 21 May 1952. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  12. ^ "Stay-down Strike At Glen Davis Ends After 26 Days". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 June 1952. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  13. ^ Holmberg, Rurik (2008). Survival of the Unfit. Path Dependence and the Estonian Oil Shale Industry (PDF). Linköping Studies in Arts and Science. 427. Linköping University. pp. 85–86; 89; 94; 129–131. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  14. ^ "Ilmar Öpik. Biographical Data" (PDF). Oil Shale. A Scientific-Technical Journal. Estonian Academy Publishers. 19 (2 Special): 187–195. 2008. ISSN 0208-189X. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  15. ^ "Oil Plant Not To Take Coal". The Age. 16 July 1949. Retrieved 2012-12-02.