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The History of Shell Oil Company
The history of Shell Oil Company is best told through the efforts of its people — people whose imagination, talent, and hard work have produced many significant achievements. Many of these achievements have been historical firsts and stand today as milestones in the petroleum industry.
1912 - The Beginning
In 1912, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group founded the American Gasoline Company to sell gasoline along the Pacific Coast, and Roxanna Petroleum to buy oil product properties in Oklahoma.
1915 – First Continuous Process Refinery
Completed in 1915, Shell's Martinez Refinery was the country's first modern, continuous-process refinery, requiring only occasional shutdowns for cleaning. For years, it served as a model for other U.S. refineries.
1921 – Signal Hill
The Signal Hill field in California was discovered by Shell in 1921. This historic strike set off an oil boom, with the good news traveling so fast that the drilling crews were forced to spend much of their time herding sightseers off the derrick floor. Signal Hill became the nation's most productive field, in terms of barrels per acre.
1928 – Shell Development Company Formalized
In 1928, Shell Development Company was organized to identify chemical products that could be made from refinery byproduct gases. One year later, Shell Chemical Company was chartered to manufacture these products, which range today from industrial chemicals to polymers and catalysts to consumer products.
1931 – Synthetic Ammonia
In 1931, Shell Chemical opened its Shell Point synthetic ammonia plant near Pittsburgh, California. It was the first plant in the world to use natural gas to make ammonia. Agricultural production then depended upon plentiful and cheap synthetic ammonia to radically simplify fertilizer application.
1941 – 100-Octane Gasoline
Shell scientists invented a way to synthesize the 100-octane gasoline needed for a new generation of aviation engines. This discovery would have history-shaping implications in World War II. At the beginning of World War II, Shell manufactured 25% of the 100-octane aviation gasoline used by the military.
Discoveries and Inventions
1943 Butadiene and Synthetic Rubber
In 1943, Shell helped launch a new synthetic rubber industry by supplying butadiene, a critical building block of synthetic rubber. The need to find a replacement for normal rubber arose during World War II when the fall of Singapore and the capture of Java by Japan deprived the U.S. of 90 percent of its rubber supply.
1946 – Discoveries in Louisiana and Texas
After World War II, the demand for oil products increased dramatically. This increased demand fueled Shell's search for new fields, and led to the discovery of oil and gas reservoirs in Louisiana and Texas. One, the Louisiana Weeks Island field, was brought into production with the deepest producing well in the world at the time.
1958 – Ranch style Service Stations
In 1958, Shell redesigned its service stations and introduced the ranch-style station. This type of station was unique in that it was the first one designed to blend in with the environment -- a concept that has been imitated for years.
1963 – Jet-powered Car
Shell products fueled and lubricated the three-wheeled, jet-powered car that set the land speed record on August 5, 1963. Driven by Craig Breedlove, a 26-year-old Californian, his "Spirit of America" achieved 407.45 miles per hour on the Salt Flats at Bonneville, Utah.
1972 – CO2 Injection
Shell pioneered testing of the CO2 injection process, an enhanced recovery technique, by becoming the first to inject CO2 in a West Texas oil field. The Cortez Pipeline, a 500-mile joint-venture carbon dioxide line, transports CO2 from the McElmo Dome Field in Colorado to West Texas and New Mexico oil fields.
1974 – Polymer Technology
In 1974, Shell Chemical became the largest manufacturer of epoxy resins, which are widely used for coatings, adhesives, and in structural materials. Recreational shoes made with Shell's KRATON® thermoplastic rubber became popular. KRATON® was also used to make toys that were safe, strong, and bounced back into shape.
1978 – Cognac
Shell brought the Cognac oil and gas field into production in 1,025 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Cognac was deeper than any previous offshore discovery, and held that record for ten years. To develop this field, the company designed and built the world's tallest and heaviest drilling and production platform.
1979 – Unleaded Fuel
In 1979, Shell introduced a second grade of unleaded gasoline and upgraded its existing unleaded gasoline to the highest octane unleaded it had ever marketed. This new high octane fuel was called Super Regular Unleaded.
1983 – Seismic Vessel
Shell's leadership in seismic exploration was embodied in the 1983 launch of Shell America. This 300-foot vessel helped locate potential oil and gas reservoirs more rapidly. The ship's many features included the ability to transmit selected data by satellite to Houston for immediate processing.
1988 – Bullwinkle
In 1988, in a world record 1,350 feet of water, Shell installed the Bullwinkle platform in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1991, with the installation of permanent production facilities, Bullwinkle reached full production of 44,000 barrels of oil and 100 million cubic feet of gas per day.
Extending the Vision
1994 – First Tension Leg Platform
Auger was the world's first tension leg platform (TLP) that had both a permanent drilling rig and full-fledged production facilities. It was installed in the Gulf of Mexico in 1994 at a then world water depth record of 2,860 feet. Auger's structure is basically a floating hull that supports a five-story deck over an area the size of two football fields.
1995 – Learning Center Open
In 1995, the Shell Learning Center was opened. Located 40 minutes north of downtown Houston in an idyllic woodland setting, the Learning Center is designed to encourage "out-of-the-box" free thinking, and to act as a practice field for new ideas.
1996 – Mars Project
In July of 1996, the Mars platform was installed in 2,940 feet of water, surpassing the previous depth record for the Gulf of Mexico established by Shell's Auger Tension Leg Platform. Mars was the largest oil and gas discovery in the Gulf of Mexico in two decades.
1996 Corterra Polymers Development
Shell Chemical was instrumental in the development of Corterra Polymers, which have extensive applications in the carpet and textile markets. Corterra Polymers combine the chemical resistance characteristics of polyester and the shape recovery properties of nylon.
1997 – Shell Houston Open Golf Tournament
In 1997, the Shell Houston Open donated a record $2.1 million to local charities, making this tournament one of the top two charity events on the PGA Tour. Since Shell assumed the sponsorship of this tournament in 1992, more than $7.2 million has been donated to area charities.
1997 – Project Gemini
In March of 1997, Shell, Texaco and Saudi Aramco announced Project Gemini, a joint venture that would combine their Eastern and Gulf Coast United States refining and marketing businesses. Upon approval by the Federal Trade Commission, this joint venture would allow the three companies to accomplish fundamental change in the way they operate their downstream businesses.
1997 – World Water Depth Record Broken
Shell broke the world's water depth record for production by almost 2,000 feet when the Mensa subsea development began flowing gas from its first well in 5,300 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico on July 12th.
1998 – Count on Shell at the Winter Olympics
Shell was the sole petroleum products advertiser during CBS-TV's 17-day coverage of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. The Games also served as a launching pad for Shell's new advertising campaign, Count on Shell, which included five new television commercials and the debut of a series of information booklets starting with Driving Dangers.