Nányún Gas Station 南雲加油站 is one of hundreds of abandoned gas stations found all around Taiwan. Located on a section of Provincial Highway 3 in Yúnlín 雲林 known as Línshān Highway 林山公路 (for it connects Línnèi 林內 with Zhúshān 竹山 in neighboring Nántóu 南投), it was affiliated with CPC Corporation 台灣中油 (中文), a state-owned enterprise that controls or supplies 80% of gas stations in the nation, and was probably abandoned more than a decade ago.
There’s nothing especially remarkable about this gas station. I’ve seen many more like it and really only decided to stop here on a whim, not having captured a full set of photographs from this class of ruin before. But, as with most of my explorations, what seemed like a simple write-up turns into something more involved after I started asking questions. In this case, I was curious about why this gas station went out of business—a question I wasn’t expecting to answer—as well as why I’ve seen so many other abandoned gas stations around Taiwan.
First, some history: CPC Corporation 台灣中油, formerly known as the Chinese Petroleum Corporation 中國石油, was founded by the ROC government in Shànghǎi 上海 in 1946. It was granted control of all existing oil industry infrastructure in Taiwan and operated as a state monopoly for the next half century or so. Some deregulation began in 1987 with the debut of a franchising system that allowed for private ownership of gas stations. The station in these photos, established in 1989, was among the first wave of privately-owned gas stations in Taiwan, a lucrative line of business during the transition to democracy in the 1990s. The economy was still growing by leaps and bounds in the twilight of the Taiwan Miracle, vehicle sales were up, and more people were on the road for work and pleasure.
Further deregulation introduced competition in the 2000s, most notably from the widely-loathed Formosa Petrochemical Corporation 台塑石化 (中文). Market saturation, decreasing economic growth, and the introduction of better public transit systems (particularly the high-speed rail) have steadily reduced demand1. More recently, CPC Corporation adjusted its rates and policies, tightening margins for private gas station owners and spurning at least one mass protest in 2014. What was once a highly profitable business has become far more marginal in the last decade. These broad patterns help explain why I’ve seen so many abandoned gas stations around Taiwan—but what about this one?
I almost always manage to date an abandonment by finding a wall calendar or scraps of newspaper laying around but the gas station office was completely empty. Luckily I found some additional information online that suggest this gas station went out of business sometime around 2002. It is probably not a coincidence that the owner and his wife were investigated for fraud in 2003. I’ll say no more about that here—but these events are almost certainly connected.
Finally, while trying to figure out the right terminology to describe features of this gas station (is that a cistern or a tank?) I ran across this great round-up of gas stations from long ago that may be of interest.