Hundreds of gas holders - also
known as gasometers - once stood among the UK's
towns and cities. William Murdoch, the inventor
of gas lighting coined the term gasometer in the
The disused gasometer, pictured above, was built
in East Greenwich around 1887. At time of building
its 225,000 cubic metre capacity made it the largest
gas holder in the world
They are called gasometers because they rise
to the occasion. As gas is fed in from a pipeline
it pushes up storage chambers one-by-one, to accommodate
the exact amount. The more gas, the bigger the
holder - Greenwich, London
Are they still in use?
A few still are in use in the UK - apparently
there's a working gas holder in the east of Oxford,
yards from the Cowley plant.
But most have not been used for many years.
They became common in the last century because
'town' gas for domestic use was locally manufactured
from coal - it needed to be stored.
Gasometers were made obsolete by the high pressure
underground pipelines that deliver natural gas
- the National Transmission System. Natural gas
was discovered in the North Sea in the 1960s.
Transco plans to dismantle nearly all of its
non-listed 550 gasometers by 2009.
Gasometers require expensive maintenance - and
the authorities are not keen on large containers
of gas in urban areas, either.
"There are, on average, three or four large
gas escapes every year from gasholders, which
could lead to a major incident if the gas found
an ignition source." wrote Geoffrey Podger,
Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive,
in November 2007.
holder detail - Greenwich, London
Energy company E.ON UK is currently working
on two major underground gas storage schemes.
The Holford Gas Storage facility in Cheshire is
already under construction, and the Whitehill
project in East Yorkshire is currently in planning.
They're not planning on building any distinctive
steel framed gasometers.
But we may not have smelt the last of 'town gas'
- Great Point Energy a Boston-area startup has
come up with a low-cost process for converting
coal into pipeline-grade natural gas.
"We can take coal out of the ground and
put it in a natural-gas pipeline for less than
the cost of new natural-gas drilling and exploration
activities," CEO Andrew Perlman told MIT's
East Greenwich gasometer