Royal Dutch Shell lists its own core businesses as: petroleum exploration and production; chemical production and sales; gas and power generation; oil products; and renewables. Most people probably know the company through its gas stations (or petrol stations for some of you.) Its earnings for the year 2000 were $13,111 million.
Shell was founded in London in 1883 by Marcus Samuel. It began as a small import/export shop specializing in providing seashells to collectors and amateur scientists. In 1892, Samuel's son, Marcus Junior, expanded the business to include petroleum products when he commissioned the first specialized ship for transporting oil - the oil tanker. Meanwhile over in the Netherlands, the Dutch company N.V. Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot Explotatie van Petroleum-bronnen in Nederlandsch-Indië was buying up oilfields and building its own tankers in direct competition with Shell. In 1903, the two companies merged to form the Asiatic Petroleum Company, which would later become Royal Dutch Shell.
The company's interests expanded rapidly, and they acquired holdings all over the world. In 1912, they began marketing their petroleum products in the U.S. Royal Dutch Shell had some hard times during the two World Wars, as they were unable to control many of their holdings in foreign countries, and they had to move their headquarters from the Netherlands to Curacao, Venezuela during the Nazi invasions. It also lost 87 tankers to hostile forces during World War II. However, the wars provided the opportunity for the company to solidify its relationships with the British and U.S. governments.
Royal Dutch Shell grew enormously during the 1950s and 1960s as petroleum became an increasingly important source of fuel. In 1966, the company discovered oil in the North Sea, and the 1970s and 1980s saw the company drilling in British, Norwegian, and Danish waters. Royal Dutch Shell was one of the first major companies to provide liquefied natural gas on a large scale during the 1970s, and this provided an additional source of revenue. Shell sees environmental issues as a major concern for the future, and pledges to search for new technologies to ensure that its practices do as little harm as possible to the environment.