Before the formation of the Royal Dutch Shell Group in 1907, Shell Transport Trading Company Limited and Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, originally competitors, established a presence in the South China region. The “Shell” Company is recorded as exporting to China by 1891 and Royal Dutch by 1894. In Hong Kong, the local “Shell” agents opened an installation at Sham Shui Po – then near the Chinese border – while Royal Dutch established a depot at North Point in 1897.
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.
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.