Hänigser Teerkuhlen

Useful Information

Location: Am Kuhlenberg 32, 31311 Uetze-Hänigsen.
A2 exit 51 Hämelerwald, L413 north 15 km to Hänigsen.
A7 exit 56 Kreuz Hannover-Kirchhorst, B3 towards Celle 10 km, exit Otze, follow signs to Hänigsen.
(52.494411, 10.089323)
Open: On local festivals, Tag des offenen Denkmals, after appointment.
Fee: Adults EUR 1.
Classification: MinesCrude Oil
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: yes
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Georgius Agricola (1546): De natura eorum, quae effluunt ex terra.
Address: Hänigser Teerkuhlen, Am Kuhlenberg 32, 31311 Uetze, Tel: +49-5147-1522.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1546 first mentioned in a geological reference book.
1986 a pit excavated by the Hänigsen local history society and restored with the original casing.
1988 area placed under protection as a Historical Monument.
1994 reconstruction of a wooden winding tower.
1996 first demonstration of oil extraction during a festival.
2008 transfer of the land to the Heimatbund.
2010 "Tar Museum" opened.


The basin of the North German Plain consists of 4.5 km of Mesozoic sediments. Among them are so-called petroleum source rocks, bitumen-rich deposits of an oxygen-poor sea. The petroleum is buoyed up by groundwater and rises until it reaches a so-called trap, a rock that has a lot of pore space and is sealed at the top by a watertight marly rock. Here the hydrocarbon compounds collect and form an oil and gas reservoir. This works particularly well near salt domes that pierce the strata as they rise. Here it is the Hänigsen-Wathlingen salt dome that has bent the layers upwards so that a triangular trap has formed between the salt and undisturbed layers. Oil from the surrounding area follows the upbent layer and accumulates at the top of the trap. If the erosion of the surface erodes the sealing layer down to the deposit, crude oil can escape to the surface.


The Hänigser Teerkuhlen (tar pits of Hänigsen), also known as Hänser Teerkuhlen, are historical oil extraction pits. The Kuhlenberg (pit mountain) north of the village was named after the pit and the fact that it is actually 2 m higher than the village. There is a reason why this area is called North German Plains. The peculiarity here is that an oil deposit lies directly beneath the surface. It was discovered early on that a hole dug here filled not only with groundwater but also with crude oil. Since the crude oil could be used in many ways, it was extracted in typical pit and sold in the surrounding area. It was used for sealing, for lubrication and as a protective coating, as an illuminant in oil lamps and torches, and as medicine. The Hänigser Teerkerle (Hänigsen tar boys) carried the Hänigser Teer (Hänigsen tar) in a pannier on their backs or packed it into a cart and sold it. The crude oil was at that time called Teer (tar) or Schmer, at least here in Hänigsen, the term crude oil was not yet common, it became established during the 19th century. Here the name Teer has survived, which leads to confusion, as it means crude oil or petroleum, not tar. Sometimes the name Satanspech (Satan's pitch) was also used because of its underground origin and its similarity to pitch extracted from trees.

The first written mention of pits was made by Georgius Agricola as early as 1546, the earliest reliable source on petroleum mining in Lower Saxony. He mentions only four such sites, of which, however, only two can still be located today, Hänigsen and the Reitling between Braunschweig and Schöningen. This shows that they were probably quite unusual at the time and the oil was probably sold over a wide area.

The pits were rectangular, about 60 cm wide and 2 m long, 2 to 3 m deep and lined with oak beams or boards to prevent them from collapsing. In some cases, a depression was dug out first, in the middle of which the pit was then made, so that the pit was not so deep and was easier to access. In total, more than 40 pits were created. Both groundwater and petroleum collected in them. Since the petroleum is lighter than water, it floats on top of the water and can be skimmed off, a goose wing was used for this purpose.

With the development of the petroleum industry in the 19th century, these small pits were no longer relevant and were abandoned. The pit near Hänigsen were all filled in. It was not until 1986 that the Heimatbund Hänigsen (Hänigsen local history society) restored one such hollow to its original state. The 400-year-old oak boards that had been preserved were used for this purpose. Since then, the volunteer "tar guys" have been showing visitors how to skim the oil.

The site has since been converted into a small museum. The Erdölmuseum (oil museum) is an exhibition space with historical exhibits, documents and photos on the historical development of local crude oil production. It is located in a former forester's lodge which was rebuilt on this site in the 1950s. The building was completely renovated by the association and the exhibition was extended several times. A wooden winding tower has been reconstructed on the grounds and various pumps and machines are on display. In addition, the exhibition extends to the present day. Only a few hundred metres away is a petroleum pump that still extracts oil from the Lower Saxony subsoil today. In the 19th century, from around 1860, oil was sought throughout Lower Saxony, but with little success in Hänigsen. It was not until 1910 that oil was profitably extracted, from deeper oil traps on the salt dome. Before the Second World War, partly due to the autarchy efforts of the Nazis, there was a real oil boom in neighbouring Nienhagen.