Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company in Hong Kong – presence since the end of the 19th Century

The benefits of working together to develop Far Eastern markets for oil products had already become apparent by the early part of the new century and a joint venture, the Asiatic Petroleum Company Limited (APC), was set up for this purpose in 1903.

Before and after the merger of interests in 1907, much of the companies’ business was conducted through agents, but by 1913 demand for oil products had outgrown this arrangement and APC’s northern and southern branches were formed to manage operations in the region. APC (South China) set up its office in Hong Kong’s Central district as a regional head office for South China and the Philippines. These are the direct antecedents of the present Shell Companies in China and Hong Kong.

In 1941, APC (South China) was the second largest corporation in Hong Kong, with an issued capital of over HK$150 million – just less than the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

However, business activities ceased during WWII when Japan requisitioned APC’s possessions in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

After Shell’s major buildings were destroyed or damaged, a new installation at Kwun Tong was opened in 1947 with Hong Kong the focus of activities as markets in China were no longer accessible during the Cultural Revolution.

New industries created a demand for shipping whilst the prospering community called for road vehicles, lighting and heating.

Oil consumption tripled through the 1950s, provided in significant proportion by Shell.

From the 1960’s the industrial/commercial sector became Hong Kong’s dominant user of hydrocarbons, including the new LPG introduced by Shell. LPG was initially supplied in cylinders, and Shell soon built central bulk storage tanks and piping for customers.

Kwun Tong Development 1964 HK Memory Courtesy Tim Ko

Kwun Tong Development 1964 showing various new housing estates and on the upper left hand side just to the left of the dark ship, Shell Oil Depot, where the present Laguna City stands. Courtesy: HK Memory Project and Ho Tim-keung

Shell was able to resume some of its marine bunkering and lubricants sales in mainland China by the late 1960’s, and in 1970 opened the Ap Lei Chau bunker. Tai Kok Tsui Installation was closed in 1980 and the old North Point depot decommissioned in 1981, but its memory lives on its names of Shell Street and Oil Street.

The Hong Kong depot was relocated to Tsing Yi Island in 1991 as one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world with emphasis on safety, security and the environment. Today, it plays a major part in meeting Hong Kong’s needs for petroleum and chemical products.

This article was first posted on 27th October 2015.

Source: Shell Oil – our history in Hong Kong

See: Shell: General History: Grace’s Guide To British Industrial History

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company in China
  2. Standard Oil in Hong Kong – information 1894 to c1908
  3. Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – contemporary photographs of its Shanghai building
  4. Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – family connections
  5. Asiatic Petroleum Company, Joe MacDonald – employee, China/HK late 1930s
  6. Asiatic Petroleum Company, China – Shanghai building, further information
  7. WW2 bombing of Lai Chi Kok oil depot – Standard/Socony/Kawakami?
  8. Kawakami Oil Company in WW2 (AKA Socony-Vacuum Oil Company)

One comment

  • Linda Swain

    I visited Hong Kong in 1963(?) We stayed at Shell Oil housing (a 2 story mansion, swimming pool too with British friends, who worked for British shell at the time) which overlooked the kowloon bay and the city – I have a picture taken of me sitting on a rock wall, overlooking this – does anyone have record of this residence ? The chicken coop overlooked the road to the dam, where I watched people with shoulder buckets heading to get daily rations of water. It was a stark view at age 12 for me, one I’ve never forgotten. I’d like very much to revisit this location – thank you, Linda Swain, Olympic Peninsula, WA

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