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Our history in South Africa
The history of Shell in South Africa dates back as far as 1902.
In 1902, Julius Weil, a successful merchant and trader who had made a comfortable fortune from general merchandise and diamonds in South Africa, sought to represent the “Shell” company in southern Africa. His contact with Shell was through the marriage of his brother to a niece of Sir Marcus Samuel, the founder of the Shell company. This relationship, along with his successful trading history, enabled his London office to secure the valuable agency.
In 1902 the first barrels bearing the Shell Brand rolled onto the Cape Town docks. The kerosene they contained brought light and heat to communities across South Africa. At a time when motor cars were relatively rare in the country, Shell’s leading product line was paraffin or kerosene, rather than Shell’s brand of petrol, 'Motor Spirit'.
In 1910, the South African Agent, Julius Weil & Co, went out of business as the slump in the local economy continued. In 1912 the British Imperial Oil Company SA (Ltd) – a Shell subsidiary – granted the Shell agency to Michael Cotts, a company that had played a part in the Weils’ attempts to establish the brand in South Africa.
1913 marked the start of the car boom in South Africa, with almost double the amount of cars entering the country that year. At the time, Shell in South Africa was selling 'Shell Motor Spirit’ petrol, the most rapidly growing product in the Shell range, as well as paraffin wax, used for candles, and paraffin, or kerosene. Lubricating oil was introduced only later.
The years of the first World War also saw the introduction of new product lines: Stewart Cartwright began the importation of crude oil and "Powering Motor Spirit" in response to agricultural and industrial demands. At the time Military demands for Fuel were heavy and there were also new civilian markets beginning to emerge.
In 1921 the Island View site in Durban, set to become one of Shell’s most important installations in the country, was developed. The initial development was completed in 1923. From here Petrol was transported to the interior of the South Africa.
In 1926 The Shell Company of South Africa Limited was registered in London, taking over the entire marketing and distribution of Shell products from the agents. By 1929 the Company had taken over over sole marketing of all its products, eliminating the need for agents.
In 1928 Shell and BP became associated in southern Africa through the Consolidated Agreement, which provided for joint ownership on a 50:50 basis of the two companies’ marketing interests.
Between 1929 - 1932, Shell Southern Africa's supply network grew rapidly with the established of bulk installations in East London, Maputo and Walvis Bay.
The Second World War (1939 - 1945) saw the emergence of a spate of new products for Shell globally. These products, which were too numerous to mention all, ranged from new compounds to displace water or to prevent canvas from rotting; de-icing greases, camouflage paints; synthetic rubber, oil-cleansing soap, etc.
By 1959 there were over 1 million cars and 120 000 tractors in South Africa and Shell was supplying the country with fuel from 64 different depots. Shell South Africa continued to expand during the 60s and became a truly South African company with the voluntary dissolution of the UK registered Shell Company of South Africa Ltd and the incorporation in South Africa of Shell South Africa (Pty) Ltd. In May 1961 South Africa became a Republic and left the Commonwealth after a whites only referendum that reflected a narrow “yes” vote.
In September 1963 the jointly owned Shell and BP Refinery (Sapref), the biggest refinery in Africa, came on stream. The Shell and BP Service Company (Pty) Ltd was formed in March 1966 to provide an integrated service function to the separate Shell and BP marketing companies and this was followed in December 1967 by the Shell and BP South African Manufacturing Company Ltd (Samco).
Political events in the seventies sowed the seeds of the end of the Nationalist Government and the inhuman policies they wished to enforce. Shell at this time had been operating in South Africa for 75 years with interests in oil (Refining and marketing), coal, chemicals, metals mining, forestry and small businesses such as lubricants, candles and liquid petroleum gas.
Despite this turbulent background Shell continued to progress and by 1984 there were more than 800 service stations in operation. The first Ultra City in South Africa opened its doors in Estcourt in 1987, revolutionising long distance road travel. The D-Card, the first diesel card in South Africa, was launched a year later.
During the 1990s Shell further entrenched its commitment by establishing and maintaining close contact with the community by supporting projects, institutions and causes that had direct community approval. Programmes were targeted on education, training and job creation. In 1993 the first Shell Select Store in South Africa opened its doors at the Midrand Ultra City.
In 2000, the first differentiated unleaded petrol – Shell V-Power was launched. This successful partnership between Shell and Ferrari resulted in Michael Schumacher and Ferrari winning five seasons of the Formula One Driver’s and Constructers Championships.
In the 2000s, Shell established Shell South Africa Upstream B.V. out of a belief that South Africa has untapped oil and gas potential that can play an increasingly important role in meeting the energy challenge in the future. Shell then applied for exploration rights offshore South Africa and in an area in the Karoo in central South Africa.
In 2012, Shell was awarded an exploration right in the Orange Basin Deep Water area situated off the Northwest coast of South Africa. If oil or gas is found, it could reduce South Africa’s dependence on imported energy supplies and help meet growing energy demand. Shell’s global portfolio of large-scale deep-water projects, combined with Shell’s rigorous safety standards, demonstrates their ability to meet technical, engineering and operational challenges in some of the world’s toughest and most complex environments. Shell is also committed to the safety of people, protection of the environment and growing a sustainable business in South Africa.
Today, Shell South Africa has a nationwide Retail network of strategically located service stations, offering our customers a variety of fuels products, as well as friendly service and convenience shopping. Our Commercial Fuels and Lubricants division sells diesel, lubricants, illuminating paraffin, bitumen and heavy furnace fuels directly to end users in the transport, construction, manufacturing, mining, marine, agriculture and general consumer markets. In the Manufacturing area, the Sapref refinery, jointly owned by Shell and BP, is one of the largest refineries in Africa. Other Shell interests in South Africa include Aviation, Chemicals and LPG (Liquid Petreleum Gas).
Shell is committed to South Africa and determined to build our business with all communities that endorse our license to operate. In the years to come we will continue to conduct our business according to our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people