The Oil Island outside Ängelsberg. The world’s oldest remaining oil refinery.
Visitors centre at Brukshandeln, Ängelsberg. Boat departs from quay by Ängelsberg station. For tickets and information contact the Visitors centre phone +46 (0)223-444 64.
Tourist office +46 (0)223-131 00.
Info also at www.oljeon.se
Information: Fagersta tourism.
This “oil island” in lake Åmänningen, is believed to be the oldest oil refinery in the world.
The birth of the oil industry occurred in 1859, when an American, Edwin L Drake, found a method of drilling and sinking a well that enabled large quantities of oil to be brought up. The price of crude oil fell drastically as a result, and the number of oil refineries grew fast. Lamp oil, particularly paraffin or kerosene, brought a much brighter light into homes and buildings.
Pehr August Ålund built a refinery here in 1875. It was no coincidence that he sited it on an island, as there was a high risk of fire and explosion. Some years earlier, he had built a refinery further north on lake Snyten, which was burnt down after having been struck by lightning. Eye witnesses claimed that the fire lit up the entire lake.
Ålund imported crude oil from the USA, grease and tallow from Russia, and tar from Galicia, in Spain. The raw materials were shipped in ore barges via the Strömsholm canal.
Ålund started off as a farmer and it is uncertain not only how he became involved in oil refining but also where he acquired the technical knowledge necessary. Notwithstanding that, in 1894 he offered shares in his new company, having discovered, after seven years of experimentation, a new method of distillation. In 1876, he was given permission to produce 1,000 barrels of oil a year. The refinery had 12 retorts for distillation, a paraffin press, a central boiler room and a storehouse. The licensed capacity was later increased to 1,500 barrels a year, and the refinery was eventually shut down in 1902. Production of various lubricating oils and greases continued until 1927.
Although it was dangerous work in the refinery, as far as we can tell there were no serious accidents there. The workforce included carpenters, mechanics, paraffin washers, and refinery workers. Eight families and a couple of bachelors lived on the island in the 1890s. Workers’ quarters have been preserved. To visit the island, take a boat, the Petrolia, from the harbour at Ängelsberg. Viewing may be booked via the Fagersta Tourist Information Office at additional times to those advertised in the summer programme.