Shell opened the 1960s by strengthening its presence in the Middle East through involvement in Oman. Ignoring early disappointments that saw its initial partners drift away, it was rewarded by discovering oil in Yibal in Oman’s most prolific field. It helped bring an entirely new oil country into production. The Groningen gas field in the Netherlands was also discovered at the start of the decade, closely followed by the discovery of gas in the North Sea.
This was a golden period of research by Shell Chemicals and it employed a number of distinguished scientists including Lord Rothschild and Professor Sir John Cornforth. Among many inventions and discoveries in its laboratories were epoxy resins, insecticides including Vapona fly spray, herbicides and liquid detergents.
Increasing reliance on local skills and talents
During the 1960s, Shell took the decision to internationalise the company. A policy of placing local people in top positions in a given country was adopted and the recruitment of Asians, Africans and South Americans was pursued, giving them as much independence as possible. This diversification of staff reflected the wider political changes of the end of Empire and its attitudes, and this far-sighted decision took Shell into the modern world.
The closure of the Suez Canal for eight years from 1967 confirmed the wisdom of the decision to invest in supertankers. The worldwide spread of its business and its operating flexibility enabled Shell to survive the disruption to supplies caused by the difficulty of transporting oil from the Middle East.
Another major development in shipping was the start of the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea. The first commercial scheme by Conch International Methane, in which Shell held a 40% interest, delivered LNG to the UK from Algeria for the first time in 1964. Further projects followed, in particular delivery from Brunei to Japan starting in 1972.