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Factfile Hydrocarbon exploration

HYDROCARBON exploration and exploitation first occurred within the Midland Valley of Scotland more than 150 years ago.

It began on an economic scale in 1851 with the extraction of oil from torbanite, a type of shale, near Bathgate in West Lothian.

Glasgow-born chemist James Young pioneered improved methods of destructive distillation of coals to produce paraffin oil.

By the 1860s, the highest-yielding torbanites were rapidly depleting.

Young subsequently opened a processing plant at West Calder in 1865. At its peak, the industry had 67 works refining oil-shales in Scotland.

However, competition from cheap imported oil from the Middle East after the First World War halved production and the industry eventually collapsed in 1964 when tax breaks were axed.

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