Long Live the Heritage of Petroleum: Discoveries of Former Oil Sites in the Port City of Dunkirk

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In the early days of the petroleum industry, oil infrastructure had a short lifespan. Individuals were creating their own company and competing with others, without the financial means of current great companies. Many oil facilities were established in port cities like Dunkirk, because they were the entrance gates to many nations. In the case of Dunkirk, many former oil sites became houses and schools in the current urban tissue, and official records lost track of many others. The limited data available on official records to inform the people on the pollution of their soil is a threat to their safety and health, and an obstacle for the planning strategies of public authorities. The analysis of archival documents, past and present aerial pictures, paintings and mapping techniques related to geographic information systems (GIS) can reveal lost industrial sites, and thus indicate potential pollution. This paper investigates the oil history of Dunkirk as a background for its petroleum history and its transferability to other petroleum related cities. A cross analysis of sources will attempt to complete French files and locate oil sites. The objective is to illustrate the transformation of former oil sites, and why the current land use is often not compatible with its history.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • energy transition
  • Environmental history
  • geographic information systems
  • Health
  • Oil industry
  • Urban history
  • Urban Planning

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