Scottish shale Scottish shale

Kimmeridge Shale and Oil Company

Company number:
Registered in England, No.170963
Struck off register of limited companies in 1929
Registered office:

Not known

An ambitious but short-lived firm that secured mineral rights for land around Bincombe, where various exploratory shafts were dug and a small quantity of oil shale produced. The company dramatically announced that it had developed a secret process for removing sulphur from the shale oil, but seem to have made little further progress.

  • Newspaper references



      The picturesque old-world village of Kimmeridge, situate in the Isle of Purbeck, practically on the coast of the English Channel, with the nearest railway station Corfe Castle, about four miles distant, is likely to come into prominence by reason the bituminous shale found in the cliffs of this and the neighbouring parishes. The shale, it claimed, burns with strong light, and emits a sulphurous smell. Pieces of jet, in a circular form, called by the country people "coal money” have also been found here; they vary in size and thickness. Professor H. T. Burls, the geologist, has completed series shale oil experiments in Dorset, and is understood that after several years of investigation (experiments at Kimmeridge were first undertaken in 1917) he has discovered process for the elimination sulphur from oil. The discovery is considered of such importance that a report upon is being forwarded to the Government; technical experts have hitherto been Professor Burls, who discovered the secret only after prolonged research, stated to a friend: " I am of the opinion that the Dorset shale industry will be considerable asset to the country.” It is reported it will now possible to develop the millions of gallons of shale oil that abound in Dorset

      The Western Gazette, 18th April 1924


      BRITAIN'S OIL INDUSTRY Scientist's Valuable Discovery.


      London Saturday.

      The sudden death of Professor H. T. Burls, the eminent geologist, has created profound regret in scientific circles. It was known that the professor had been overworking himself experimenting on secret process for eliminating sulphur from Dorsetshire shale. His disclosure of the secret when he was on the verge of death has been followed by intense activity in the laboratory of Mr. Herbert, the chemist who was associated with the important discovery. Interviewed to-day by Press Association representative. Mr. Herbert told the story of how the secret was hit upon. " Exploration of Kimmeridge, Dorsetshire, was begun under Government auspices years ago." he said. " and a wonderful seam of shale was discovered. It contained millions of tons of the first quality oil. But the bugbear was the sulphur. Chemists all over the world had tried to discover the means of its elimination. Professor Burls and I set work, but we were baffled at evervy turn. Then suddenly we hit upon it, and like most discoveries it is simple once you know how to do it. I believe process will revolutionise the oil industry in this country." It is estimated that 100.000.000 gallons of oil will available from Dorset a result of this discovery.

      The Gloucester Citizen, 10th May 1924





      For a long time mining experts and engineers have speculated on the mineral wealth—oil shale and iron ore—hidden beneath the pastoral surfaces of the county Dorset. The existence of the Abbotsbury Railway, now the property the Great Western Railway, was due solely to the belief held by promoters that there was iron ore waiting to be exploited in the Portesham region, was a disastrous enterprise, and after a few years of unprovable struggle against engineering and other difficulties the shareholders were glad to hand the line over the G.W.R., by which company it is now worked entirely for passenger traffic. The idea of developing mineral wealth seems to have been abandoned. During the war, however, the Government sought utilize the oil deposits which were known to exist in the area, and German prisoners were employed in large numbers. Deep shafts were sunk at Coryates, but though labour was so cheap it was found that the could not be exploited at a profit owing the large sulphur element it contained. Sulphur has been the 'bete noire” of the oil engineers here for years. It is known that there is a rich stratum of shale running from Kimmeridge right along the Dorset coast. Centuries ago the shale was largely used tor fuel, but to commercialize it tor oil extraction has never been seriously thought until recent years. For some time past exploration has been busy at Portland, and by the permission of the Admiralty oil oil shafts have been dug close to the Dockyard and other parts the but so far with no very substantial results.


      The most extensive works are those which have been initiated by the Kimmeridge Shale and Oil Company in the neighbourhood_ of Bincombe, a little village between Weymouth and Dorchester. Their area covers some 5,000 acres, and owing to the results of a chemical process invented by Professor Burls, a good deal of optimism prevails in regard to the venture. Whether hopes will realized remains to be seen. The works Bincombe, where shafts were sunk and tests made, have been carried out by Capt. E. Gray, R.E., who for three years has been busily engaged there. Professor Burls, who unfortunately has died, succeeded in reducing the sulphur to 0.6 per cent., a proportion previously regarded as impossible.


      Thus, claimed, is removed the only obstacle in the way making the development the shale a commercial possibility and a workable financial proposition. Capt. Gray has expressed himself very hopefully in regard to thickness the shale, and to the chemical tests quite enthusiastic. has carried out a deal work underground at and truckloads of shale have been sent London for tests. A representative quantity of oil has been treated by the Burls process, and sulphur content 0.6 per cent. is regarded as startlingly satisfactory. The process is secret, and known only to the company. What effect the death Professor Burls will have on the future work remains seen.


      It is claimed that a general sample of five tons shale gives gallons oil to the ton, and 1,640 cubic feet of gas. The promoters assert that this places beyond the possibility of working the oil shales to advantage. The concession obtained the company extends over 5,000 acres of land lying between Bincombe and White Nose Point. Capt. Gray has stated that the tests have yielded in some cases as much as 52 gallons of oil to ton of shale, and over an area of acres it had been found yield not fewer than 27 gallons to the ton. Capt. Gray considers it one of the best oil propositions in England. The works have so far not progressed much beyond the experimental stage, and the death the inventor of the process may possibly development. But there is good reason to believe that with its strong financial backing the company will in the near future carry through their courageous enterprise.


      Capt. Gray and Professor Burl had been in collaboration in this part of Dorset for some time, and it is understood the Professor disclosed the secret the new process for eliminating sulphur on his deathbed. There have been numerous attempts to exploit Kimmeridge shale in the past, but this is far and away the most practical and the most promising. If it should turn out that the sulphur problem, which has hitherto proved, insoluble, has been solved by Professor Burls' new chemical process, then important developments will follow, not only at Bincombe but in the other parts the oil-bearing area, on the Dorset coast.

      Western Morning News, 3rd September 1924