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Fostering the Remediation & Redevelopment of
Manufactured Gas Plant Sites

Prof. Russell Thomas


Prof. Russell Thomas

Prof. Russell Thomas BSc (Hons) PhD CBIOL MRSB MIENVSc CEnv MSCI MIGEM EngTech

Technical Director - Ground Risk and Remediation, WSP UK Limited


Russell is a Technical Director within WSP Bristol office. A biotechnologist by training, after finishing a PhD on nuclear waste treatment, Russell worked within the industrial research sector of the UK gas industry, before transferring to the consultancy sector 16 years ago. 

Although Russell has worked across a wide range of areas, he is best known for his knowledge of the manufactured gas industry and a range of successful innovation projects he has managed.
Russell was recently appointed to a Professorship at the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, in addition to his lectureship at the University of Manchester. Russell manages a variety of innovations projects in collaboration with these universities, which stretch from environmental applications of nanotechnology to research into environmental forensics.

Invited to become a member of the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers history Panel, Russell has an in depth knowledge of the history, processes and past activities of the gas industry. He has written numerous papers and been an invited speaker at conferences globally on this subject. 

Presentation 1

Presentation 1 Title

The Manufactured Gas Industry in England

Prof. Russell Thomas, BSc (Hons) PhD CBIOL MRSB MIENVSc CEnv MSCI MIGEM EngTech, Technical Director, Ground Risk and Remediation, WSP UK Limited


The gas industry is the oldest utility industry in the world, with its roots dating back to the end of the 18th century and the appearance of commercial gasworks starting in 1805 and the start of the public gas industry in 1812. The industry was established in England, with considerable support from Scottish and Welsh engineers and European scientist. It predates the coming of the railways and its much later energy rival, electricity. The industry was important as it revolutionised the efficiency of our factories and made our streets safer at night, with much brighter lighting. It strengthened our economy through our export of gas making plant, engineers and gas coals.     The gas industry played important roles in improvement hygiene in the home, through the introduction of instant hot water boilers and it placed a key part in reducing urban pollution, through producing smokeless fuels and with gas heating. It also played important parts in worker relations through co-partnerships and during both World War campaigns, it supplied our factories with energy, dyes for uniforms, medicines, motor fuels and explosives. The industry is linked to famous engineers such as William Murdoch, James Watt and Matthew Boulton.  The British are credited with constructing gasworks across Europe which lit the cities of Madrid, Berlin, Hanover, Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Vienna and Oslo, to name a few. The technology was also exported across the commonwealth. The gas industry is therefore of great significance to the industrial history of England, Britain and worldwide.   

Presentation 2

Presentation 2 Title

Ultra-resolution Analysis of Coal Tars – Implications for Risk Assessment and Source Apportionment

Prof. Russell Thomas, BSc (Hons) PhD CBIOL MRSB MIENVSc CEnv MSCI MIGEM EngTech, Technical Director, Ground Risk and Remediation, WSP UK Limited

Co-Authors: Chris Taylor, National Grid Property,  Robert Kalin, University of Strathclyde, and Chris Gallacher University of Strathclyde


Tars is a common contaminant found at former coking works, gasworks, brickworks  and chemical works. Our  research has shown that tars can have significantly different chemical compositions, reflected through the PAH content to some extent but much more through the composition of those other groups of compounds we don’t typically analyse, such as alkyl PAH and heterocycles This  presentation will describe the depth of our work its application to forensic source apportionment and how this information can be used to aid both the understanding of risks from coal tar and aid its remediation.