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British Petroleum

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British Petroleum Company PLC or BP PLC (since April 2000) is an oil exploration, extraction, refining and sales company. Following its merger with Amoco it is the largest company in Britain and the third-largest oil company in the world. BP's London division is valued at around $50 billion. Internationally, BP has a presence in 70 countries.

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1909 - 1955

In May 1901 William Knox D'Arcy was granted a concession by the Shah of Persia to search for oil, which he found in May 1908. This was the first commercially significant find in the Middle East. In 1909 the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was created to exploit this find. The company grew slowly until World War I when its strategic importance led the British Government to acquire a controlling interest in the company and it became the Royal Navy's chief source of fuel oil during World War I.

In 1917, the war allowed it to take the British arm of the German Europaische Union, which used the trade name British Petroleum. After the war ended the company, in which the British Government now had a 51% interest, moved to secure outlets in Europe and elsewhere. but its main concern was still Persia, following the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919[?] the company continued to trade profitably in that country.

There was growing dissent within Persia however at the 'imperialist' and unfair position that APOC occupied. In 1932 the Shah terminated the APOC concession. The concession was resettled within a year, covering a reduced area with an increase in the Persian government's share of profits. Persia was renamed Iran in 1936 and APOC became AIOC, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

Following the turmoil of World War II, AIOC and the Iranian government resisted nationalist pressure to come to a renewed deal in 1949. In March 1951, the pro-western Prime Minister Ali Razmara[?] was assassinated and in April, a bill was passed nationalising the oil industry and the AIOC and the Shah were forced to leave the country.

The AIOC took its case against the nationalisation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, but lost the case. However the governments of Britain and the US were concerned about the encroachment of Soviet influence in the area and acted to install a friendlier government in Iran. They chose General Fazlollah Zahedi[?] as a more suitable prime minister of Iran.

On August 19, 1953, the incumbent Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, was forced from office and replaced by Zahedi and the Shah was recalled. The AIOC became The British Petroleum Company in 1954, and briefly resumed operations in Iran with a forty percent share in an new international consortium. BP continued to operate in Iran until the Islamic Revolution[?]. However, due to a large investment program outside Iran, the company survived the loss of its Iranian interests at that time.

1960s and 1970s

From the late 1960s the company looked beyond the Middle East to the USA (Prudhoe Bay[?], Alaska) and the North Sea. Both of these fields came on stream in the mid-1970s transforming the company and allowing BP to weather the OPEC-induced oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979. In 1969, BP acquired the Valdez oil terminal, Alaska, from the Chugach for $1. Some natives contend that this was an illegal transfer.

1980s and 1990s

In 1987, British Petroleum acquired Britoil[?] and those shares of Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) not already owned. In 1994, BP and Petroleos de Venezuela[?] SA (PDVSA) began marketing Orimulsion®, a bitumen-based fuel.


In 2000, BP acquired Arco (Atlantic Richfield) and Burmah Castrol plc.

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