Scientific advances increase oil demand
A number of scientific advances also boosted demand for oil. Shell contributed to the invention of the jet engine - its architect Sir Frank Whittle worked for the Group for a number of years. The 1940s also saw the development of the catalytic cracker, which was cheaper and more effective than its predecessor thermal cracking. Shell’s lubricants were also much improved. In 1950 Shell formed a partnership with Ferrari in Formula One to help develop its lubricants – a partnership which endures to this day.
In 1953, as rationing finally ended, Shell in the UK was allowed for the first time since the war to sell petrol under its own brand name. It prompted a huge advertising campaign. It was a time when Shell used visiting artists and published its famous road guides, all of which contributed to building the Shell brand.
New political reality
But the sensitivity of the oil industry to volatile political environments was demonstrated by events such as the sequestration of assets in Iran (1951-53) and in Egypt during the Suez crisis (1956-57). This “new reality” was to impinge more strongly on the Group in later decades. It led to a new emphasis on security of supply; refineries would in future be built near their markets, crude oil would be transported through a network of pipelines and in more supertankers.
In the late 1950s the Group’s structure was reorganised, with new operating companies created below the two holding companies and the setting up of a Committee of Managing Directors to set direction. This structure was to survive for almost 40 years.
In tandem with this reorganisation, work began in London on a major new headquarters building for Shell Transport, Shell Centre. When it opened in 1963 it was London’s tallest building. Other new Shell buildings went up around the world, in Melbourne, Toronto and Caracas.