Meanwhile, in the United States, the Shell Chemical Company (founded 1929) began the world's first production of ammonia from natural gas in California in 1931. It also started production of chemical solvents from refinery gases in California during the early 1930s while in 1942 it pioneered the production of butadiene, a key raw material for synthetic rubbers.

In 1941, production of Teepol liquid detergent began at Stanlow in the UK, the first manufacture of a petroleum-based organic chemical in Europe.

In the decades that have followed, Shell chemicals companies have played a major part in the growth of the petrochemicals sector and developed some of its key manufacturing processes. In the table below are some of the highlights of that history of innovation.

The table shows the years in which original processes developed by Shell were commercialised. Current Shell Chemicals activities are shown in bold, although the processes that are used today sometimes differ from the original version.

Date Process developed
1931 Secondary butyl alcohol (SBA) solvent from butene-butane
1933 Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) solvent by dehydrogenation of SBA over copper/zinc
1935 Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and acetone from propylene-propane
1937 Epichlorohydrin (ECH) for conversion to glycerine
1941 Butadiene from di-Cl-butane (key development in growth of synthetic rubber industry)
1942 Cumene by benzene alkylation (differs somewhat from current process)
1942 Teepol* detergents from branched olefins
1947 Ethanol by catalytic hydration of ethylene (process still in operation in Saudi Arabia)
1947 Purified ECH for resins manufacture
1948 Glycerine from C3 feedstocks
1958 Firrst ethylene oxide/ethylene glycols (EO/EG) plant licensed
1960 Polyisoprene rubber by use of lithium catalyst (led to later development of block-copolymers of isoprene or butadiene with styrene: SBS and SIS thermoplastic elastomers)
1961 Versatic acids (Koch reaction)
1964 Cardura (ECH + Versatic acid)
1965 Styrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS) thermoplastic rubber
1966 VeoVa (Vinyl Esters Of Versatic Acids) with zinc catalyst
1970 Shell HydroFormylation (SHF) process by Co/phosphine for production of alcohols from olefins
1970 Direct route to methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) solvent from IPA/acetone
1972 Hydrogenated thermoplastic rubbers
1976 Shell Higher Olefins Process (SHOP) for production of alpha and internal olefins from ethylene
1978 Styrene Monomer/Propylene Oxide (SM/PO) process (subsequently improved with increases in both SM and PO yields)
1980 Isoprene extraction by sulpholane from C5 fraction
1980 Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) process (implementation of a process developed in the 1960s for potential use in isobutylene manufacture)
1987 Liquid Propylene Process (LIPP) and Shell High Activity Catalyst (SHAC) system. The LIPP-SHAC process is now a Basell technology.
1988 Speciality di-olefins from butadiene (closed down)
1990 MIBK by condensation of acetone
1993 Isomerisation of xylene to para-xylene using Pt/mordenite catalyst
1996 CORTERRA TM fibres from PTT (polytrimethylene terephthalate) Polymer
1999 1,3-propanediol plant opened at Geismar (feedstock for CORTERRA Polymers)
2002 Shell acquires Mitsubishi Chemical Company catalytic ethylene glycol process
2003 Shell integrates Mitsubishi glycol reaction with Shell EO process to create the OMEGA process
2008 First Shell OMEGA plant started up at Lotte Daesan plant in South  Korea
2010 Completion of the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex in Singapore, Shell's largest, fully integrated hub to-date. The OMEGA technology is used in the mono-ethylene glycol plant.
2014 Shell first to offer a globally available portfolio of natural gas-based fluids and solvents for the chemical industry, manufactured at the world’s largest GTL plant, Pearl GTL in Qatar.

In addition, Shell researchers have achieved major improvements in the ethylene oxide (EO) process over the past 50 years, by making a process switch from air to oxygen and by continuous catalyst improvements.

More in About Shell Chemicals

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