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Everyday Architecture

Gas Works

In the 1800s, towns across Britain needed to make changes as populations and industry grew. Something many local governments did to tackle these challenges, was to set up gas works. The main purpose of a gas works was to make, transport and distribute gas – the kind of gas that a lot of homes have for boilers and gas hobs, as well as a lot of industrial buildings and machinery. The discovery of natural gas reserves in the North Sea meant that this site wasn’t needed anymore and the office buildings were demolished in 1965. 

So, what usually happens when facilities like these aren’t needed anymore? Oil and gas are mined from fields (even though most of them are beneath the sea!) and when all the fuel has been mined, the facilities must be taken apart and the area returned to its natural condition, this is known as decommissioning. A lot of rigs are currently reaching the end of their lifespans, so there will be a lot more decommissioning over the next 5-10.

The three criss-crossy towers on the left are legs of an oil rig that is currently being decommissioned. This rig is called a ‘jackup rig’, they usually have 3 legs; however, it is not uncommon to find some with 4, 6 or 8 legs. The barge (the platform area where the work happens) of the jackup rig has “holes” where these legs can be lowered all the way onto the bottom of the sea to act as stabilizers when the rig is drilling into the seafloor to extract oil or gas, or raised to the air when the rig is moving around. 

The large gasometer (the massive cylindrical structure where gas is stored and measured) wasn’t decommissioned, but was kept and used for storage. This structure is a part of our landscape here in Dundee now, at one point there were plans to turn it into a giant Dundee Cake, but that idea was never fully baked. The plan is to keep the gasometer as a nod to our past when the site becomes the home to Eden Project Dundee in 2024. 

Research by Stephanie Crowe
Words by Poppy Jarratt
Illustration by Dana Ulama