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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 11

I The Present Energy Economy

II Australian Energy Consumption

III Research And Development

IV Coal

V Oil And Natural Gas

VI Solar Energy

VII Nuclear Energy

VIII Bagasse Firewood And Other Biomass

IX Electric Power Generation And Distribution electric Power Generation And Distribution

X Manufactured Gas
i Early technology
ii The new technology
iii Liquefied natural gas

XI Industrial Process Heat



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Manufactured Gas

Now supplied to provide heat, gas was manufactured and distributed early in the 19th century purely as a source of light. Outshining candles and oil lamps and minimising the work which accompanied their use, gaslight was one of the most important scientific achievements of the 19th century. Its presence transformed town life, initially by lighting the streets, factories and commercial establishments and eventually by lighting the homes of a wide proportion of the urban population.

Gaslight was first introduced to Sydney in the 1820s and to Melbourne in the 1840s by various individuals who set up small plants which could supply a single establishment. The more complex problem of manufacturing gas and distributing it throughout a whole town, however, was first addressed by the Australian Gas Light Company, which was formed in 1837 to light the streets of Sydney. With a part-convict population of less than 30,000 Sydney lacked a municipal council when this Company first lighted its lamps. Thus on 24 May 1841, the first night of reticulated gas supply in Australia, of the 181 lamps lighted only 22 were street lights. Formed in 1842, Sydney's Corporation began systematic lighting of the city four years later.

In Melbourne, the City of Melbourne Gas Coke Company was formed in 1850, but the Company's affairs were disrupted by the onset of the Victorian gold rush in 1851. Consequently, gas supply was not begun until 1 January 1856. Hobart was the next of the colonial capital cities to enjoy gas lighting (1857) followed by Adelaide (1863), Brisbane (1865) and Perth (1885).

Regarded as a mark of civilisation and prosperity gaslight was soon in demand in the provincial centres of Australia. Foremost in this rush for modernity were the Victorian towns of Kyneton, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Talbot, Bendigo and Geelong. Each of these towns enjoyed the benefits of gaslighting by 1860 and most had to cart the necessary coal in by road -for in the gold towns, the gasworks preceded the railway, that other important measure of municipal progress.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Gas Light Company; City of Melbourne Gas Coke Company

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© 1988 Print Edition page 836, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher