BP- Japan Oil Development Company

Company Number: SC001501
Date of Incorporation: 7 January 1886
Contact Details: 1 Wellheads Avenue, Dyce, Aberdeen, AB21 7PB
Operating Details: Active (now a subsidiary of BP, see history)
Other names (if known): Oakbank Oil Company Ltd (until 1963), BP exploration (Associated Holdings) (1963-1972)
Function of Company*: Services to oil and gas extraction (1120), Holding Companies including Head Offices (7415)
Headquarters/Base of Operations Location: Oakbank
Area of Operation: Oakbank shale/oil works, Niddry Castle works, Dalmeny works and additional crude oil properties (see below)

*Taken from Standard Industrial Classification 2003, as used by Companies House in 2010


Held By: Split between the BP archive and Almond Heritage Valley Trust. At this time (Jan 2011) most of the BP archive is to be transferred to the Almond Valley Heritage Trust, except those records that relate to BP/Anglo Persian Oil. No reference number for collection.

Scope/type: BP archive c.1880s-1971; annual reports and accounts, Directors minutes, financial information (including account books), documents relating to company housing, legal agreements and leases etc,

Almond Valley Heritage Trust; Plans of Niddry Castle and mining works, various operational paperwork and artifacts, photographs and negatives

Conditions governing access/use: The BP archive is open to the public for any records up to 1979 by prior appointment. The Almond Valley Heritage Trust is in the middle of an ambitious project to digitise its records, but otherwise they remain open to the public by prior appointment

Related records: See The Scottish Shale Oil Project for further details. Articles in Scottish Mining Museum, plans in North Lanarkshire Council Museum, various photographs held in collections (multiple photos in Falkirk Council Archive, railway wagons and a locomotive at The Scottish Railway Preservation Society

Company History

"In 1860 Sir James Simpson started a work a Oakbank, Mid Calder, Midlothian, and after receiving fairly good returns on his investment for three years, he formed a private company which was very successful, and led to the oil work and mineral fields finally becoming the property of a limited liability company which was floated in 1869.

"The Oakbank company was very successful at the start, but the constantly decreasing prices for finished products, and the adoption of a bad form of retort, brought it to the verge of bankruptcy in 1886, and necessitated its reorganisation. The extension of the works and general reorganisation were completed in May 1887, after which an expenditure of £30,236, and the company was then placed on a more equal footing with its competitors." (A Practical Treatise on Mineral Oils and their By-Products, Iltyd. I. Redwood, 1897).

One factor in this turnaround was the success of George T Beilby, the company’s Chief Chemist. Beilby developed several patents and retorts for improving the process of refining oil, and was later knighted and made president of the Society of the Chemical Industry.

In 1899 the works were re-equipped and the company expanded. Additional properties at Duddingston (Niddry castle), Westwood, and Easter Breich, Linlithgowshire, were subsequently acquired and in order to continue the supply to the refinery of the crude oil produced by the Dalmeny Oil Co Ltd it was decided in the early part of 1915 to acquire the controlling interest in the company. The Dalmeny works were closed from this point. An interest was held in the Scottish Oils Agency which had been formed to sell and distribute the products of the Scottish Oil Companies. APOC offered to purchase the whole of the ordinary shares in July 1919 and it was converted into a private company October 1932, controlled by APOC through Scottish Oils Ltd.

Scottish Oils Limited

Scottish Oils Limited was formed by the merger of the 5 remaining Scottish shale oil companies (Pumpherston, Broxburn, Oakbank, Philpstoun and Youngs) in 1919. This company was a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which became British Petroleum in 1954), although all five companies continued to operate independently within the structure. Based at Middleton Hall, a 1707 mansion house in Uphall, Scottish Oils provided admin, marketing and technical support for the Scottish shale oil industry. Its first Managing Director was William Fraser of Pumpherston Oil. In 1924 Anglo Persian Oil supported the industry by opening the refinery in Grangemouth.

However following the removal of war time controls, soaring wage and price inflation made the oil produced in the Lothians more expensive and unprofitable. By 1932 the remaining shale oil companies were legally absorbed by Scottish Oils, which started to make dramatic cuts on staff and equpment. By 1938 there were five remaining crude oil works (Addiewell, Deans, Roman Camp, Hopetoun and Niddry Castle) and a dozen or so shale mines and pits, and a coal mine at Baads.
The Second World War bought an increase in oil prices and wages (the first real terms increase since the early part of the century), and even the redevelopment of premises. However by 1954 shale oil had again become a loss-making industry in Scotland, and closures began from the 1950s onwards. Broxburn (closed in 1962) and Pumpherston (1964) were the last refineries to close.

Thanks and acknowledgment to The Almond Valley Heritage Centre and The BP Archive for their help and assistance.