48 Albemarle Street, London, W.1.
English Oilfields Ltd was an audacious business enterprise based on ill-founded expectations. Its launch in 1918 came at a time when new sources of home-produced oil would be of great value to the war effort, and to the balance of trade thereafter.
The company attracted huge public interest and substantial capital, but completely failed in its objective of establishing an oil industry based on the Kimmeridge shales found beneath the fields of Norfolk. Despite major investment, oil never produced on a commercial scale at their Setch Oil Works as samples produced experimentally proved so rich in sulphur compounds as to prove unsaleable.
This failure might have been foreseen given the history of oil production from Kimmeridge shale in Dorset, however directors and investors seemed happy to accept the assurances and share the confidence of the charismatic Dr. William Forbes-Leslie who was responsible for instigating the scheme and served as a managing director. It later became apparent that many of Forbes-Leslie's claims were misleading, unsubstantiated, and possibly fraudulent.
Following a checkered early career, William Forbes-Leslie developed an interest in geology and claimed to have discovered oil shales in the Setchey area in about 1912. From 1916 he served as consultant geologist to English & Foreign Oil Finance Ltd, the investment firm that promoted English Oilfields Ltd, and held half of the company's shares.
The English Oilfields prospectus, launched in July 1918, promised a bright future for the company, and raised the prospect of an number of subsidiary firms being created, each operating their own oil works. The issue of the high sulphur content of the local shales was acknowledged but every confidence was expressed that this would not be an obstacle to success. A number of respected experts testified in support of the project, in most instances on the basis of information, or samples, supplied to them by William Forbes Leslie.
Rapid progress was made on establishing a site for the oil works and mine workings. A brickworks was constructured, and all were linked to the main line by a substantial branch railway. In September 1919 an extraordinary general meeting of the company agreed to increase in share capital to a million and a half pounds. Forbes-Leslie addressed shareholders at this and a subsequent annual meeting, with rousing accounts of rapid advancement and new discoveries, which were met by resounding cheers. He spoke of shales that were producing oil of "remarkable quality, practically free from sulphur".
Behind the scenes, substantial difficulties were encountered in establishing workable retorts to extract the oil from the shales. A number of types of experimental retorts were trialled with little success, and very little crude oil was produced. Despite this, the company continue to construct the refinery plant needed to process this oil
Throughout 1920, shareholders were reassured by a succession of newpaper reports in which Forbes-Leslie announced new discoveries of shale, improved processes, and the possibility that liquid oil lay beneath the shale throughout the company's lands. Following increasing tensions, Forbes-Leslie left the company during 1921, threatening legal action. He went on to promote an equally ambitious shale oil scheme at Kilve in Somerset which proved similarly unsuccessful.
Late in 1920, the company secured the services of John Black, previously of "a Scottish shale oil company", whose design of retort was reported to be ideal for the local shales. This proved not to be the case, and in 1923, the company reported on "the enormous loss incurred by premature expenditure on plant which in the end has proved unsuitable". English Oilfields continued to experiment with various other designs of retort for a period, but by 1924 were considering disposal of much of their operating plant.
The company retained a substantial capital reserve until 1925, when rash investment attracted the wrath of shareholders. In 1938 the company's property was stated to consist of shale land south of King's Lynn and a colliery in New South Wales.
English Oilfields Ltd maintained a presence at Setch until 1966, operating as a small scale distributor of oils.
ENGLISH OILFIELDS LTD The prospectus will be issued in a few days of English Oilfields. Ltd., with a capital of £300,000. The company has been formed acquire an extensive area oil shale situated south of King's Lynn, Norfolk, the area being estimated at not less than 20 square miles. Comprehensive development has been carried out on the property, including the sinking considerable number bore-holes, which have proved numerous valuable oil shale seams, and experimental plant has been erected near King's Lynn with eminently satisfactory results, oil being obtained of high quality. The home supply of oil for naval and oilier purposes is of great national importance. The directorate is representative, being composed of first class business men, and the company is a purely independent British undertaking.
The Newcastle Journal, 26th July 1918
The Full Prospectus has been filed with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies. The Treasury has been consulted under the Notification of the 18th January 1915 and raises no objection to this issue. It must be distinctly understood that in considering whether they have, or have not, any objections to new issues, the Treasury does not take any responsibility for the financial soundness of any schemes, for the correctness of any of the statements made, or opinions expressed with regard to them. The special permission of the Committee of the Stock Exchange has been granted for dealing of the shares now offered for subscription after issue of Allotment Letters.
The Subscription List will close on or before the 7th day August, 1918.
ENGLISH OILFIELDS, LTD. (Incorporated under the Companies Acts, 1908 to 1917.)
CAPITAL - Divided into 300,000 Shares of £1 each, of which 150,000 will be issued fully paid to the Vendors in part payment of the purchase: consideration, and the balance of Shares are offered for Subscription par,
Bankers. THE CAPITAL & COUNTIES BANK, LIMITED, 35 Queen Victoria Street, London, E.C.4. Head Office. 39 Threadneedle Street, E.C.2, and Branches.
Solicitors. For the Company—BLOUNT, LYNCH, & PETRE, 48 Albemarle Street, London W. For the Vendors—GRUNDY, KERSHAW, SAMSON, & Co. 6 Austin Friars; London E.C.4.
Brokers. MYERS & CO., 6 Throgmorton Street, London, E.C.2, and Stock Exchange.
Auditors. J. W. BEST & CO., Chartered Accountants, St Peter's Close, Sheffield.
Secretary and Registered Offices. A.N. STOCKDALE, 48 Albemarle Street, London, W.1.
Prospectuses and Application Forms can be obtained from the Company's Bankers, Brokers, and the Offices of the Company.
The Prospectus so filed contains the following amongst other statements:
This Company been formed for purposes mentioned in its Memorandum of Association and in particular has for its immediate object the acquisition of Oil Shale in England and the development and working of the same hereinafter mentioned. The Company has already secured for its operations an extensive area of Oil Shale Lands, situate about three to ten miles to the South of King's Lynn, in the County of Norfolk, the area of which is estimated to be not less than twenty square miles in extent. This land is held either on mining leases, for term of sixty years, or on agreements for lease with the right to take up lease thereon for the term of sixty years, the terms in each case being calculated from December. 1917, or later dates.
Geographically the Estates are excellently situated for dealing with a large production of oil, being within a few miles of the Port of King's Lynn, to which oil can easily piped. There is also adequate railway communication to all parts of the country which can be made available by the construction of sidings. Commercially there is a great and ever-increasing demand for Motor Spirit and Fuel Oil. and the situation of the Company's property closely adjacent to a port on the East Coast of England places is in a most favourable position for supplying Oil for marine purposes. The demand for Fuel Oil for Naval purposes is greater than it has ever been, and it is anticipated that this Company will able supply on as favourable terms as any foreign producer. The importations of Oil products into the United Kingdom were of a large extent, and this Company and its subsidiary Working Companies should be able supply a considerable proportion of these products and so retain in this country large sums of money which are now annually sent abroad for the purchase of imported Oil. It is hoped to begin producing Oil in commercial quantities within a few months, and it will be of very great national advantage to consuming Oil produced the United Kingdom, in place of importing supplies from overseas, particularly the very vital matter the balance of imports and exports, with its effect the rate exchange.
The geological examination the Company's area has been conducted Mr. W. Forbes-Leslie. F.G.S. Mr. Renwick Cowan (formerly Mining Manager to the Pumpherston Oil Company, Limited) has also examined and reported thereon. The chemical examination of the Shale and the Oil produced therefrom has been made Edward Burnet B.A., B.Sc.
During the past three years the Vendors have carried out comprehensive programme of development on the property, including the sinking of considerable number boreholes which have proved the presence of valuable Oil shale teams over a large area. An experimental plant was erected near King's Lynn for the purpose of testing bulk samples the shales, and the oil obtained has been found of high quality, and easily extracted low temperature distillation. These developments have been carried out under the supervision of Mr. Forbes-Leslie. and have given eminently satisfactory results, and the Company, therefore, begins its existence as the possessor of a proved area containing practically an inexhaustible supply rich oil shales.
With regard to the development work, Mr. Renwick Cowan states, in his report, that follows:—
"A considerable amount of proving operations have executed on the property by means of bores, shafts, and the tracing of outcrops. These have proved the existence of rich shale seams over a large area, the continuity and regularity of their occurrence and the entire absence of large faults ... in all 10 Shale seams have been found in thicknesses ranging from 3 feet 9 inches to 7 feet 4 inches, and included in depth of 234 feet from the surface."
"The total footage of workable ore shale in above is 50 ft 6 inches It is impossible to estimate with any degree accuracy the quantity of available shale in the properties, but it would be safe to state that there is readily accessible a quantity (already proved) sufficient provide for throughput of 1,000 tons per day for a period of 30 years. This low estimate does not include the thinner and more inferior seams, but takes into account only the more valuable. There is ample evidence to show that the greater part the property is underlain by the Shale section, and as additional bores are put down, further large quantities of Shales will developed."
"From the several analysis and tests made of the more important seams, I am of the opinion that a safe estimate man of the average shale contents, after making due allowance for loss in distillation is as follows:-Per ton of dry shale: Crude Oil 35 gallons. Sulphate of Ammonia 701b. There is a sufficiency of non-condensible gas to provide the heating rower for the working of the installation, thus eliminating the usually high expenditure for coal. A considerable proportion the sulphur is contained in the 'Capping' rib of the pyrites covering the seams, and this could readily eliminated in the mining operations. I am of opinion, as the result of my investigations, that your properties contain the elements essential a successful Oil industry, and that under experienced and capable management will produce exceptionally good results."
Mr. Edward Burnet in his report states that by the use of suitable retort and simple method of treatment it has been possible to reduce the original sulphur content to as low a general average as 2.69 per cent, (which, according Mr. Forbes-Leslie, below the present standard Admiralty requirements for Fuel Oil), and by refining the oil obtained, to further substantially diminish the amount of sulphur.
Sir Boverton Redwood, Bart., D.Sc., has studied the geological data submitted to him by Mr. Forbes-Leslie; and has analysed samples of the Shale, and has examined the oil obtained therefrom. The outcome of this investigation was so favourably impressed with the prospects of the undertaking that he agreed to act as Honorary Technical Adviser to the Company. His official duties in relation the war prevent his acceptance at the moment, but when he relinquishes these he is willing act in the above capacity.
The area controlled by the Company is so large that, there is room for number of Subsidiary Working Companies to operate on separate areas of ground under this Company's auspices, and it will be one of the main objects of the Company to form such Working Companies on selected areas. Each Subsidiary Working Company should have sufficient capital to erect a complete plant treating not less than 1.000 tons of shale per day. and there should be no difficulty in raising such Capital when the initial plant erected by the Company is in successful operation.
Mr Forbes-Leslie in his report estimates the postwar profit to be derived from Motor Spirit, Fuel Oil, and Sulphate Ammonia at 6s. per ton of shale treated. On the basis of treating 1,000 tons of shale daily, for, say, 350 days per annum, each of these plants should return an annual profit of about £100,000. The profit of 6s. per ton of Shale treated the profit estimated by Mr. Forbes-Leslie be derived from Motor Spirit, Fuel Oil, and Sulphate of Ammonia only, without taking into account any profit to be obtained from dealing with by-prodocts such as Toluene. Benzol, Phenol, Icthyol, Aniline for dye-products. Bitumen, Paraffin Wax, &c. In the first instance this Company intends to erect a working unit of such capacity as the funds at its disposal will permit, and the unit will be so constructed as permit extension to the full capacity of 1,000 tons daily. The Company is a purely independent British undertaking.
PURCHASE CONSIDERATION.—The English and Foreign Oil Finance (Limited) are vendors and are promoting the Company, and they have fixed the purchase consideration under contract (a) below at £157,500, payable at £7,500 in cash and £150.000 in fully paid Shares of each of this Company. Under this Agreement the Company agree to refund the English and Foreign Oil Finance (Limited) the sum of £5.000 expended it in drilling operations. The English and Foreign Oil Finance (Limited) have further agreed under contract (b) below to subscribe or procure subscriptions for £100,000 of the Capital of the Company in consideration of the sum of £7,500, also pay the whole of the preliminary expenses of the Company down to the time the Company shall become entitled commence business—except stamp duties and brokerage—but Including registration duties and fees, advertising, and fees brokers and solicitors, in consideration of the sum of £7,000. If such preliminary expenses exceed that figure, the English and Foreign Oil Finance (Limited) are liable for the excess; if they are less they retain the difference.
The English and Foreign Oil Finance (Limited) have entered into sub-underwriting contracts at an underwriting commission of 1s. per share, with an over-riding commission of 2.5 per cent. The statements in the Prospectus with regard to the property are based upon the Reports of Mr. W. Forbes-Leslie, Mr. Renwick Cowan, and. Mr. Edward Burnet. Printed copies these Reports may be obtained from the Company on application. Copies of the Memorandum and Articles of Association and of the above-mentioned Reports and Contracts may be seen at the Offices of the Solicitors of the Company any time during business hours on the days the Subscription Lists are open.
The Western Mail, 30th July 1918
The company known English Oilfields, Ltd., which controls the Norfolk shale deposits, has also made other valuable discoveries. A mineral called Ozakerite, or natural mineral wax, has been found in large quantities. This is practically the same material as that of which our ordinary so-called wax candles are made. In fact, the oil shales Norfolk are so rich in oil in certain localities that they are saturated with it, and there is some oil over which exists in liquid form. In nearly all the boreholes put down by English Oilfields Ltd., the drilling tools when drawn up were found to be coated with oil, and only a few weeks since the company found liquid oil while drilling the shale at Wormegay, not far from King's Lynn. In order to prevent the oil running into a neighbouring river, a temporary reservoir or sump has had to be excavated in which the oil can be stored.
Experts agree that had we known during the Great War the oil wealth which lies beneath the soil of Norfolk, we need not have been too anxious about our oil supplies as was the case. The first mine shaft ever sunk in Norfolk, situate at West Winch, is mining shale with a content some 45 gallons of oil to the ton. Experienced men from Scotland and from the Midland coal areas are co-operating to develop this great source of oil fuel.
Bucks Herald, 16th August 1919
Extraordinary General Meeting, September 1919
INCREASE CAPITAL AUTHORISED
An extraordinary general meeting English Oilfields. Limited, was held yesterday in London, to increase the capital of the company to £1,500,000 by the creation and issue of 1,200,000 shares each. Sir James Heath, Bart., who presided, moved the resolution, and stated that the directors proposed, in the first instance, to make issue of 400,000 of the new shares, and to offer them at the price of 25s. per share to the shareholders on the register at the time. The offer was made in the proportion of 4 new shares for every three shares held by each shareholder.
Dr. W. Forbes Leslie (one of the managing directors), seconding the resolution, said: This company was formed in July, 1918. It acquired the interests of the English and Foreign Oil Finance Limited, its lands, interests, and the technical information of the district in which these properties were situated.
The land area secured was very important. It covered about 20 square miles land, especially selected as a result of very extensive geological investigations carried out for several years previous to the issue of your company. You also secured a greatly developed drilling programme and drilling plant, skilled drillers, engineers, and managers, all educated in the special knowledge required to deal in developing these great and rich oil shale fields. The time had come, in the beginning of 1918, when, in my opinion, it was necessary to enter upon a more extensive and intensive programme development. Indeed, I saw before us the final stage of such development, and I therefore considered it my duty to advise the directors the English and Foreign Oil Finance to provide more capital by floating a company capable of acquiring the properties they possessed, and finally completing their development.
Our drills, even at that date, had disclosed such remarkable richness in the formation beneath the outcrop series that I should have failed in duty to the shareholders if I had not advised an increase of capital. I was satisfied that the discoveries justified such a course, and that money invested would give a remunerative return, just as I am satisfied to-day that increase of capital is justified by later developments, and that I should fail in duty if I did not recommend it.
Your land area has now increased several thousand selected acres as the result of extending the drilling programme; our technical knowledge of the oil shale formation increased in proportion; our drills have demonstrated an extension of the field on certain well-defined lines, and also demonstrated that the thickness of the productive oil measures is not penetrated at 300 feet from the surface, and even extend 400, 500, or even 700ft. We have proved more than 20 square miles contain the oil seams; that in all this great area the thickness of the retortable material is not less than 150 ft.. and that the regularity of the formation in oil contont, and relative thickness of seams, is so remarkable that in borings 13 miles apart the relative thickness and oil content is practically the same.
Mining operations were commenced six months ago under the superintendence of a very experienced mine manager. Today No. 1 mine West Winch is in existence. This mine is capable of giving an output of 500 tons per day. Mining is taking place on the fourth seam of the series, or the third seam the middle series The pit is being continued to 200 ft.. and several seams will mined together. We have found that mining in the shale series is economical and cheap, roofs and floors being available, and the structure of the seams giving natural facilities for mining.
The oil obtained from the middle shales is of remarkable quality, practically free from sulphur, and yielding many valuable by-products, and especially rich motor oil and wax. The enormous tonnage of these middle shales, proved to exist the practical demonstration of the drill throughout your area, amounting on conservative estimates, to more than 2,000,000,000 tons, practically free from sulphur, containing the in laboratory from 50 to 80 gallons per ton of oil and from 60lb. to 112lb. of sulphate of ammonia, besides 15 per cent, or more of fine paraffin wax and other valuable by products, could not fail, because of its magnitude and the necessities of the United Kingdom in raw fuel to create in the Press and among investors considerable interest. I originally estimated commercial production at 30 gallons per ton, but in consequence of the yield from mined being much richer than drill records formerly demonstrated, I have good reasons for considerably raising my estimate. and now estimate that yield commercially of from 45 gallons of oil per ton treated may be expected. The yield of sulphate of ammonia may be anything to or over, 801b. per ton of shale, and the wax about 60 lb. per ton.
There are two corollaries still to be dealt with under by-products. The first comprehends the discovery and present development of a very valuable deposit of clay adjoining the No. 1 West Winch mine, and within yards of the main railway line to London. The deposit has a thickness of 40 feet, and bricks of quality unsurpassed in England can be made of the clay, also Staffordshire blue brick. The second corollary comprehends cement manufacture as an integral part of the company's business, the residues of the shale being found make good cement when mixed with lower chalk so plentiful in your properties. The fact that your waste gas, of which you will have enormous quantities available, can utilised for fuel makes the manufacture of cement economical that no other centre of manufacture which relies coal for fuel can favourably compete. It is possible you will be turning out 600 tons of cement per day when your 1.000-ton shale plant in full working order. In view of the knowledge we have acquired. I have advised the erection of plant at capable of dealing with a minimum 1,000 to 1,500 tons per day. the sinking of No.2 mine West Winch bring the mining output to 1,000 to 1,500 tons per day, the construction of a railway linking the mines and works to the Great Eastern main line to Lynn and London, also Midland and Great Northern Railway line to and Lynn and Peterborough, and the equipment of the brickworks and cement works.
The property you hold is capable of supplying 18 works dealing with 4.000 tons each per day for 120 years. On the output of 1,000 tons a day, the revenue should be so satisfactory that I hardly like to deal with in its fractions present; it appears so large that even the most greedy shareholder should be satisfied with his profits. The resolution was carried unanimously.
The Yorkshire Post, 2nd September 1919
Annual General Meeting, December 1919
ENGLISH OILFIELDS, LTD. COMPANY MEETING.
RECENT DISCOVERIES. ENORMOUS RETURN ON CAPITAL ANTICIPATED.
The annual general meeting of the shareholders of the English Oilfields, Limited, was held yesterday at the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Moorgate-street, London, E.C., Sir James Heath, Bart (chairman of the company) presiding.
In moving the adoption of the report and balance sheet the Chairman said that inasmuch as the shareholders would be addressed the company's geological expert, Dr W. Forbes Leslie, and its chemical adviser Dr Burnet, a few remarks from himself would suffice. He thought, however, that after what would he said the shareholders would fully appreciate the work that had been done and was now in progress and could be amply satisfied with the position of affairs, sharing the directors' confidence in looking forward to a most successful future for the company.
Certain discoveries had been made, and if the anticipations that had already been formed regarding them proved to be correct, the results would be of the utmost importance. The directors had carefully considered whether allusion should be made that meeting to the recent discoveries, but they had come to the conclusion that it was their duty to give the information to the shareholders. He understood that the company's chief object was the development of their oil shale properties, and their energies were being concentrated upon that object. He was glad to inform the meeting that after protracted negotiations H.M. Petroleum Executive had agreed give the company an exclusive licence to bore for liquid petroleum over a very extensive area, and that licence now only awaited formal signature.
Mr Charles L. Samson seconded the motion, which was unanimously adopted.
W. Forbes Leslie, F.R.G.S., said that it was obvious that before much progress could be made with their various constructional sections, an up-to-date means of transport to the properties had to be secured, and he was pleased state that the Great Eastern Railway Company had made the necessary railway connection between the properties and the main line London. The Midland and Great Northern Railways had also agreed to the linking up of the company's line with these two important railway systems, and the work of railway construction to the shale mines at West Winch, and through those to the company's brickyards and works at Setch, was now being energetically carried out. A works site had been selected adjoining the experimental works at Setch, and covering 25 acres, where gravels of considerable thickness allowed solid foundations to be laid.
Freehold had been secured and the shareholders were to be congratulated upon having now got the only favourable site for works in the neighbourhood. A contract for a by-product plant to deal with 200,000,000 cubic feet of gas per 24 hours had been given out, and the works to be placed upon the freehold site which this plant was to be erected would, believed, be the largest retorting, condensing, and refining plant in England. Another item of interest and a source of future profit was the establishment of large brickworks at West Winch. The discovery on the company's grounds of a plastic clay 40ft. thick was of great importance in view of the present high cost of bricks and the difficulty in obtaining them. The essentials for the erection a large oil-producing works had been secured at small outlay.
MINE DEVELOPMENT AND DRILLING OPERATIONS.
With regard to the minerals and their development. the No 1 pit at West. Winch, after passed through several large seams of shale, had reached a seam 11ft. in thickness, upon which driving was proceeding at satisfactory rate. The unexpected had been in evidence in the course of the development of the mines, for in the 11ft, seam, upon which driving was proceeding, a heart of torbanitic material had been found, and this upon analysis yielded from 85 to 95 gallon of oil per ton. The drills previously had located torbanitic material at a lower level, so they might anticipate that more than one seam of that valuable material was present in their mines. Since the last annual meeting the drilling section the company's geological department had put down eight holes penetrating into, but in no case piercing, the bottom of the shale measures (cheers).
These productive shale measures, therefore, practically proved to be greater thickness than 500 ft new and an important feature was the decision to institute deep-drilling operations. Various data, including the constant outflow of free oil from the borings, had suggested the possibility of an oilfield at a depth from which the overlying shales had received the enormous quantities of free oil they now contained. It was his opinion that if oil in commercial quantities was to be found in England it would be found especially the districts of East Anglia. Therefore, the company was in the position of seeking at the same time to determine the presence of metalliferous deposits—coal, petroleum, and possibly a repetition the shale at depth.
ESTIMATE OF YIELD.
Dr Burnet, chemical adviser to the company, said that free oil existed in the shale, but the bulk that which was obtained was produced destructive distillation. The Norfolk shales were very rich in volatiles —much more so than the Scottish. Many of the Norfolk seams gave from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent, of volatile matter, representing possible of oil of at least from 80 to 100 gallons per ton, while volatile percentage of over 40 was common. With suitable retorting 60 gallons per ton of Norfolk shale was not an extravagant estimate. Disregarding all ancillary means of possible revenue and confining themselves strictly to the ordinary products of the shale oil, what was the immediate commercial outlook of the company? In other words, what reasonable profits could they expect from a ton of shale? He had stated that a not unreasonable quantity of crude oil obtainable per ton was 60 gallons. In order not to over-estimate he would reduce the amount by 25 per cent, and they would still have 45 gallons per ton, almost double the yield of the Scottish shales, the oil issue alone success was assured. After carefully considering the question of the profits to be derived from the oil products and without taking into consideration the chemical and other matters had mentioned, and after studying the matter in all its bearings, he was confident that the profits would show an enormous return on the capital. In conclusion, he emphasised the national character of the Norfolk programme. Every gallon of Norfolk oil would help to restore our old rate of foreign exchange which the war had so disastrously disturbed.
Hull Daily Mail, 31st December 1919
NORFOLK OIL FIELDS. The directors of English Oilfields Ltd announce that they have received a telegram from Dr. Forbes Leslie, their Managing Director of the Norfolk properties, stating that in borehole No. 20 an important discovery fresh oilshale deposits has been made during the present week. The newly proved oil-shale is eleven feet thick, and its remarkable richness is seen from the fact that the shale has been and found contain over ninety gallons of crude oil per ton. In other words, one-third the weight of the shale is represented crude oil. The importance the new find may be gauged when it is mentioned that the average crude oil percentage the Scottish oil-shales which have been successfully operated for the past sixty years is but 23 gallons per ton.
Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 24th January 1920
The directors of English Oilfields Ltd have issued a statement to the effect that English Oilfields Ltd., has no connection with the King's Lynn Petroleum Company, and also that Dr Forbes Leslie, the consulting geological expert of English Oilfields has had nothing to do with the new venture and that is not the technical advisor thereto, and it is untrue that property taken over by it on his recommendation, confidential or otherwise.
Dundee Courier, 20th April 1920
ENGLISH OILFIELDS. COMING EVENTS CAST THEIR SHADOWS BEFORE THEM.
Coming events often cast their shadows before them, and the firmness of English Oilfields indicates that the report which has been promised by the directors, and which may now be expected in about ten days' time, will dispose of all the recent adverse rumours in the most effective fashion. In the meantime, some exclusive information with regard to the position and prospects of the Company is contained in the current issue of the Petroleum Times, and is worthy of particular attention on the part of the shareholders this Company, and of all interested in Oil generally. The initial difficulties have now all been overcome, and batch of eight retorts is already working; while such rapid headway is being made at Setch with the building of other batches of retorts, that it is anticipated that before the end of the present year no less than one hundred retorts will be in operation on the properties. The retorts at present at work are giving off 30 gallons of crude oil per ton of shale treated, although it expected to considerably increase this yield in the course time. The crude oil, as it now comes from the retort, produces, refining, 20 per cent, of motor spirit. 40 per cent, of kerosene, 30 per cent, gas oil, and 10 per cent of oil fuel. The shale is being mined by the open cut system. and, consequently, at a very low rate of working cost, while the proved shale deposits cover an area of no less than 140 square miles, that it will take centuries to exhaust the deposits lying at shallow depths.
The Gloucester Citizen, 4th September 1920
English Oilfields, There is little information in the annual report the English Oilfields (Limited) as the progress the undertaking, the Board not deeming it desirable the moment to make any statement in regard to the important technical investigations now taking place. In view of the inconvenience of the date and the investigations in question, it proposed adjourn the annual meeting convened for the 30th inst until a date not later than February next, by which time the shareholders will, it is stated, be in a much better position to form an opinion as to the position and prospects of the company. We see that Dr. Forbes Leslie, the expert whose optimistic reports were such feature some time ago, has resigned his office of director, and has commenced an action against the company, claiming payment for certain services rendered and for certain expenses.
The Yorkshire Post, 19th December 1921
English OILFIELDS, LTD. ANNUAL MEETING.
Some interesting remarks were made at the annual meeting of the shareholders of English Oilfields, Ltd., which was held at River Plate House, London, 8.C., the Chairman of the Company, Mr. Charles L. Samson, presiding over a large attendance of shareholders The Chairman, in moving the adoption the Directors' report and the statement of accounts, remarked that the shareholders would observe that the capital of the Company been increased during the year to £850,000. A substantial sum was represented by calls in arrears, which item, however, had been greatly reduced since the issue of the balance-sheet. There was no doubt it was a perfectly safe asset, but in the present day he did not think it wise to unduly press the shareholders, who, like everyone else, were suffering from great many claims upon them.
As regarded the prospects of the Company, he said that, speaking as Chairman of it, and with all the responsibilities which that position gave, or should give, to one's utterances, he believed the position of English Oilfields, Ltd., was that day better than it had ever been, from the commencement the Company, and its prospects were more secure and brighter. (Applause.)
During the year the Company had solved two great matters which lay at the very bottom of the question of whether that Company could made a commercial success, viz., were they able to work the shale economically ? and were they able deal satisfactorily with it after they had mined it? It had been conclusively proved that for a number of years to come they could obtain all the shale they wanted by mechanical diggers, instead of by the old methods, whereby I considerable saving would be effected. There was not the slightest doubt that plenty of shale existed on the land which the Directors had decided to purchase, but the question of retorting was most difficult one.
After several failures to build a retort, the company succeeded in securing the services a gentleman connected with one of the large Scottish Shale Companies Mr. John Black—who had produced a retort which was fully equal to all they were led to expect from it. For some time that retort had been in use, and was turning out large quantities of oil.
As to the of treating the oil, the Company had secured the services Dr. L. Selitrenny, a chemist of European reputation, who was now engaged in a number interesting experiments with a view ascertaining whether by a slight modification of the Black retort he could not make a considerable saving by subsequent refining.
With regard to the question of finance, he considered the company in a very favourable position, and was satisfied that the balance of £280,000 now in their hands would enable them to produce within reasonable time sufficient plant to retort and refine, approximately 200 tons per day on the basis of a profit of £3 per ton, and would give them something like £200,000 per annum.
Their condensing and bye-product plant, however, was capable dealing with very much larger quantities of shale, and he was convinced that, with an expenditure from £300,000 to £400,000 at the outside, they should be able to deal with 1,000 tons per day which ought to produce over £1,000,000 per year on expenditure of £120,000. He concluded in remarking that the prospects of the Company were not after all, dismal, and said it afforded him great pleasure move the adoption of the, report and accounts. Sir James Heath seconded, and the motion was unanimously agreed to.
Mr. William Ivcy, who presided at the second ordinary general meeting of the company, stated, in moving the adoption of the report, that the drill was now down 1,234 ft., and that after long delay the long-expected machinery had arrived, and satisfactory progress was being made. He explained the difficulties which had beset the Company owing to drilling virgin land, but the Shareholders should be reassured by the fact that the Government Petroleum Department were satisfied with what had been done. As to whether they would find oil, he saw reason why they should not, for the Hardstoft well, which was not 50 miles off, oil had been flowing the rate of eight barrels daily, which, although appearing small, reached a considerable tonnage in a year. If the Hardstoft well could get eight barrels from 2ft. sand, what would they be able get their 13ft? In view of the probability that the price of land in the immediate neighbourhood would increase, they had extensive property favourably situated for oil production, and were negotiating for more. He referred to the depressed state of the oil-share market, but even then, at the present price the Company's shares, he did not think anyone had lost taking them. The outstanding call 5s per share would not be made unless the Board thought it was really necessary, but that necessity might arise. The motion to adopt the report was carried unanimously.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5th January 1921
Oilfields Peace. Presiding at the adjourned annual general meeting of the shareholders of English Oilfields, Limited, Mr Charles L. Samson, chairman, stated that as a result of the poll, Mr Sankey had been re-elected to the Board a majority of 33,500 votes. Details were given of compromise which, it is hoped, will accepted by the shareholders. This is that two new directors will be elected—one in the place of Major-Gen. Scott Moncrieff and the other in the place of Sir James Heath, Bt., who has expressed his willingness to retire in the circumstances. Guy Pell and Sir Harry Foster were unanimously elected to the vacancies on the Board.
The Aberdeen Journal, 5th January 1922
Interim report states that the examination and tests several processes have occupied continuously the attention of the Directors, although many unforeseen difficulties and delays have arisen. It was hoped that new system of retorting, which it had been decided to test, would serve the double purpose of carbonising the shale and eliminating the sulphur from the oil. The latter result has not yet been accomplished. The tests are however, to be continued. Little or no expenditure on capital account has been incurred, running expenses have been materially cut down, and the cash resources of the company have been conserved. The Directors will at the earliest possible moment inform shareholders of any important results accomplished or progress made.
Dundee Courier 26th July 1922
English Oil.—There has been much agitation recently among shareholders in English Oilfields, the company which is developing the oil-shales of Norfolk, owing to the continuous delay in obtaining practical results. Consequently the board has been rearranged. No doubt the new directors will investigate matters, but what is still wanted is a director who has an intimate knowledge of oil technology.
Mining Magazine, October 1st 1922
Annual General Meeting, May 1923
ENGLISH OILFIELDS REPORT.
That much-heralded concern, the English Oilfields Company has not yet reached the profit-earning stage. The report now to hand covers a period fifteen months to the end of last year, and the cost of development and administration increased during that period £37,717. making total under this head of £80,902. It is stated by the directors that they have had under experiment and research various retorts and methods of refining. In view of past results, and the enormous loss incurred by premature expenditure on plant which in the end has proved unsuitable, they did not feel warranted in proceeding large scale before being absolutely satisfied. One these retorts has been selected the most suitable, and it is at present in course of erection at the works. If the results come up to expectations, there will be no delay, say the directors, in erecting considerable number of these retorts. It will thus seen that the concern still in the experimental stage.
The reconstituted Board have, however, been successful in safeguarding the financial resources, cash amounting at December 31 last to £129,082, while outstanding calls figure at £49.447, for the recovery of which legal action is being taken. Shareholders will be sorry to see from the report that there have been serious differences between one the Board (Mr. Joseph Day) and his co-directors. These differences are to be ventilated at the forthcoming meeting 11th. inst., which promises to be lively affair.
The Yorkshire Post 4th May 1923
English Oilfields.—Report for 1923 states that policy reconstituted Board to exercise strictest economy has been maintained. Directors have come to conclusion that there is reasonable prospect of commercial success production of oil from Company properties. They have therefore decided to free Company earliest moment of heavy and increasing rent obligations under their mining leases. Meanwhile proposals for utilisation of costly plant at Setch or for its realisation are under consideration. Their policy, Directors state, at proper moment to submit proposals for writing down the capital drastically, so that it may be represented by tangible assets, and to build up new business as only alternative to liquidation which would yield little or nothing to the shareholders. Balance-sheet as at 31st December, 1923, shows that with development and administrative expenses amounting to £21,158 during the year the liability now stands at £102,120.
Dundee Courier, 8th July 1924
OIL COMPANY'S LOSSES
SHARP CRITICISM FROM SHAREHOLDERS
" Micawber-like Directors"
Shareholders of the English Oilfields Ltd., did not pass accounts at the ordinary general meeting yesterday. Considerable dissatisfaction was expressed by several shareholders, and the meeting was adjourned for four months. Sir Harry Foster, presiding, remarked that the shareholders would be aware the directors contemplated reducing capital by writing down the assets to their actual value. It was intended to put forward plans at the earliest possible moment. Sir Philip Dawson seconded the motion for the adoption of the balance of the report.
Mr Buckland, a shareholder, said they could not be expected to be consoled by the news given to them. Two years ago, according to the balance sheet, - they had £129,000 cash in hand at the bankers. Today he found the whole of this had been swept away - invested in certain Debentures, shares, and stocks, for which their own auditors had pointed out, had no market quotation. This was an alarming he added, and he thought the meeting should be adjourned in order that a full account could be presented, showing in detail where the £129,000 had been. "We have a right to know where the money is," he said. " I do not see how it can be to the detriment of the company to tell the shareholders where investments lie." The outlook now appeared to be hopeless, and the so-called balance-sheet was an insult to the intelligence of any business man.
" Wait and See."
Mr Sheard, another shareholder said the report reminded him of Charles Dickens. The Company appeared to to be like Mr. Micawber, waiting for something to turn up, and the shareholders were told in the words of Mr Asquith to "wait and see". Sir Harry Foster, replying, said that the next three months would be great importance to the Company, and they would by the next general meet be quite definite proposals for the writing down of the capital. They would do that very severely—probably, he thought, to a figure of 5s per share. It was quite untrue to suggest, as had been done by some shareholders, that they would be better off had they wound up two years ago. English Oilfields, Ltd., was formed in March, 1918 to acquire oil shale lands in England. Development operations are being carried on upon about 20 square miles of land Norfolk. 'The authorised capital is £1,500,000, of which £900,000 has been issued in 900,000 share of £1 fully paid. No dividend has yet been paid
Dundee Courier 15th August 1925
English Oilfields.—-Difficult financial situation has rendered it impossible for the parties the provisional agreement entered into for the sale of the company's surplus plant to raise the stipulated cash capital. Extensions of time granted for the fulfillments the agreed conditions have expired.
Aberdeen Journal, 26th December 1931
ENGLISH OILFIELDS LIMITED Notice is hereby given, in pursuance of section 290 of the Companies Act, 1948, that a General Meeting of the Members of the above-named Company will be held at Boston House, 63-64 New Broad Street, London E.C.2, on Wednesday the 19th day of February 1969, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon precisely, for the purpose of having an account laid before them, and to receive the Liquidator's report, showing how the winding-up of the Company has been conducted and the property of the Company disposed of, and of hearing any explanation that may be given by the Liquidator. Any Member entitled to attend and vote is entitled to appoint a proxy to attend and vote instead of him, and such proxy need not also be a Member.—Dated this 21st day of January 1969.
L. Ettling, Liquidator
The London Gazette, 21st January 1969