FUELS: ROYAL DUTCH SHELL

Name: Royal Dutch Shell

The history of Shell dates back to 1833 when Marcus Samuel opened a shop in London, selling sea shells. This quickly developed into a trading company which was taken over by Marcus Samuel Jr, who began dealing in oil after a visit to Russia. He began exporting Russian kerosene to the Far East, using the new Suez Canal and the first oil tankers.

The Shell Transport and Trading Company found itself in competition with a Dutch firm which had been formed in 1890 to develop an oil field in Dutch-owned Sumatra. In 1903 - under pressure from the vast Standard Oil - the two companies agreed to merge operations and formed the Asiatic Petroleum Company. This led to a merger of all operations in 1907 with Royal Dutch Petroleum taking 60% of the company and Shell 40%. The company acquired oil reserves in Rumania, Russia, Egypt and Venezuela and began trading in the United States in 1912 by acquiring a marketing operation called The American Gasoline Company.

Although the First World War and the Russian Revolution resulted in setbacks for the company, operations were expanded with new refineries in Curacao and at Martinez, near San Francisco. In 1922 Shell consolidated its US operations by acquiring the Union Oil Company of Delaware to form the Shell Union Oil Corporation. The company increased its reserves and diversified into the chemical business.

There were further setbacks in World War II with a number of oilfields being lost but the war meant increased demand for Shell products and diversification into the production of synthetic rubber.

In the immediate post-war period Shell developed rapidly with new discoveries and added production facilities around the world. The boom in automobile sales helped Shell to grow rapidly and the company also became involved in drilling for natural gas. This led to exploration in the North Sea and the discovery of various profitable oilfields, notably the Brent fields in 1971.

After the oil crisis in 1973 Shell briefly diversified into coal and metals but was soon concentrating on its core activities once again as the oil prices returned to normal. In recent years the company has undergone major restructuring with considerable job losses around the world.

Shell has been a major player in motor racing sponsorship. It enjoyed a highly successful relationship with McLaren and Honda in the late 1980s but switched to Ferrari in 1996. The company has also enjoyed a successful relationship with Bobby Rahal in CART.

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