by Tan, Bonny
Constructed in 1862 by the Singapore Gas Company, Kallang Gasworks was the first site dedicated to the manufacture of gas from coal for street lighting. In 1901, this function was taken over by the Municipal Commissioners, and gas production was expanded for industrial and home use. Kallang Gasworks was decommissioned in March 1998 and its function was taken over by Senoko Gasworks.1
The Singapore Gas Company was formed in London in 1861 when permission was obtained from the Municipal Commissioners to provide gas lighting for Singapore’s streets.2 In 1862, the Kallang Gasworks was built to supply the first piped gas in Singapore to enable street lighting. Since its opening, the gasworks was under 24-hour surveillance, and guarded by Gurkhas. It was given the Hokkien nickname huay sia, or "fire city", because of superstitious fears that it might explode.3
The Singapore Gas Company primarily serviced street lighting until 1901 when the Municipal Commission took over the responsibility. Between 1901 and 1930, coal carbonising plants were installed; these were in use until 1958. Kallang Gasworks’ original function of providing gas for street lamps became less important when electricity was used for street lighting in 1906, with the last gas street lamp disappearing in 1956. In 1958, coal was replaced by fuel oil, and new oil gasification plants were built in Kallang Gasworks.4
Modern gas works
In 1951, Singapore achieved city status and the Municipal Commission was renamed the City Council.5 On 1 May 1963, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) was constituted, taking over the responsibilities of gas, electricity and water services.6 By 1975, Kallang Gasworks was operating eight plants, which reformed either naphtha or heavy fuel oil to produce gas.7 In the 1980s, there was competition between bottled gas and piped gas.8 On 1 October 1995, the gas and electricity operations of PUB were corporatised and undertaken by Singapore Power Pte Ltd. A Regulation Department was also set up to ensure the safe and reliable provision of piped gas supply.9
Plans to develop Kallang Basin led to announcements that the Kallang Gasworks would be phased out. In September 1994, a ground-breaking ceremony was held at Senoko to mark the commencement of a new gasworks to replace the Kallang site.10
In July 1997, piped gas production operation was relocated to the S$240-million Senoko Gasworks. It had a daily production capacity of 1.6 million cu m, 45 percent more than Kallang Gaswork's capacity at 1 million cu m.11
The Kallang site was officially “retired” on 23 March 1998 after having produced gas uninterruptedly for more than 130 years, except for short breaks during the two world wars. On 26 March, three days later, the Kallang Gasworks site was opened to the public for the first and only time before it was finally returned to the government.12
1. “Page 16/17 Advertisements Column 1,” Straits Times, 24 April 2011, 16–17 (From NewspaperSG); “Milestones and Accolades,” City Energy, accessed 5 May 2017.
2. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 202 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); “Untitled – Gas,” Straits Times, 17 August 1861, 1; “Europe – A Cas Company for Singapore,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835—1869), 22 May 1862, 4; “Municipal Council – Gas,” Straits Times, 14 June 1862, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Joanne Lee, “Farewell to Kallang’s Blue Tin Can,” Straits Times, 24 March 1998, 34. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Public Utilities Board, Singapore (Singapore: Public Relations Division, 1982), 8 (Call no. RSING 354.59570087 PUB); Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 202; “Municipal Enterprise at Singapore,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), 31 January 1901, 2; “Untitled,” Straits Times, 17 February 1923, 8; “Our Gas Industry,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), 26 October 1926, 3; “Piped Gas,” Straits Times, 1 May 1988, 2 (From NewspaperSG); “Page 16/17 Advertisements Column 1.”
5. “King Grants City Status to Singapore,” Straits Times, 24 July 1951, 3; “Bill to Make City Changes,” Straits Times, 12 October 1951, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Dr Fong Heads Utilities Board,” Straits Times, 3 May 1963, 4 (From NewspaperSG); Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 202.
7. “New Gas Plants Will Cut Down Kallang Pollution,” Straits Times, 24 July 1975, 7 (From NewspaperSG); Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Public Utilities Board, Singapore, 17, 18.
8. Ronnie Lim, “Battle for Cooking Gas Market Hots Up,” Straits Times, 20 February 1986, 9; “No Piped Gas for Five New Housing Board Estates,” Business Times, 22 June 1984, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Annual Report (Singapore: Public Utilities Board, 1995), 3, 23. (Call no. RCLOS 354.59570087 SPUB)
10. “New Development Soon at Kallang,” Straits Times, 8 March 1997, 30; Trudy Lim, “Mall That Links Three Waterfronts,” New Paper, 16 December 1988, 20 (From NewspaperSG); Public Utilities Board Personnel Department, Singapore, Annual Report (Singapore: Personnel Department, 1994), 10, 16. (Call no. RCLOS 354.59570087 SPUBPD-[AR])
11. Lee, “Farewell to Kallang’s Blue Tin Can”; Carol Eng, “S’pore Power Eyes Existing Projects in Region,” Business Times, 24 March 1998, 2; Tan Hsueh Yun, “Senoko Gasworks Will Keep More Home Fires Burning,” Straits Times, 8 March 1997, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Eng, “S’pore Power Eyes Existing Projects in Region”; Lee, “Farewell to Kallang’s Blue Tin Can.”
The information in this article is valid as at 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.