Canola and Shale

Tom Gomez

Joined January 2008

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This shot shows two ways of producing oil, one for cooking and the other to power industry.

The yellow crop in the field is Rape. Oilseed rape, or canola, is the world’s third most important oilseed crop. Plant breeders developed it from the ‘weed’ rapeseed (B. napus oleifera). The first variety was marketed 1974, and the bright yellow fields of oilseed rape in flower are now a familiar sight in the countryside. Not good news for Asthma sufferers (like me).

In the background can be seen Greendykes Bing towering over the town of Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland, Greendykes Bing (95m in height) rises to 195 m above sea level. It is the largest of the counties post-industrial spoil-heaps.

Bing, a Scots word meaning pile or heap, is derived from Old Norse ‘bingr’: a heap. The word has been in use from the 16th century and is still common in the every-day language of central Scotland.

The result of retorting mineral oil from deep-mined carboniferous shale beds at a time when Scotland was the major oil producing nation in the world. They tower above the naturally low-lying landscape of West Lothian.

In 1851, James Young opened Britain’s first commercial mineral oil refinery in Bathgate using cannel (parrot) coal. “Paraffin Oil” was a brand name and initially more than 4,000 litres a week of lubricants and naptha were manufactured for the paint and rubber industries. As the retorting process improved, lighting oil was produced and the Bathgate works provided 25% of the lamp oil used in London.

When the cannel coal seam ran out in 1858 Young discovered that oil was also extractable from oil-shale found near Broxburn and West Calder. Crude oil was retorted from shale mined at Westwood and Winchburgh then refined at Pumpherston into paraffin oil.

The maximum output from the industry in Scotland was in 1913 when 27.5 million barrels of crude oil were produced.


Three bracketed JPGs converted to HDR in Photomatix.

Related shots can be found at: Lowland Scotland.

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oil scotland hdr lowland canola shale

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