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Academic Word List: Exercise 55

Read the following text, paying particular attention to the highlighted words.

Royal Dutch/Shell Group

Royal Dutch/Shell Group is an international producer of petroleum, gas, and chemicals. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group comprises a loose federation of more than 1700 associated companies controlled by two parent companies: the Shell Transport and Trading Company based in London, England, and the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group ranks as the world's second largest oil company, behind Exxon Corporation, and is the world's largest petrochemicals company. The company operates in more than 100 countries. Its operations cover all aspects of the oil and gas business.

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group was formed in 1907 by the merger of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company with Shell Transport and Trading. Shell Transport began in the 1830s in London as an importer of seashells from the Far East. British importer Marcus Samuel inherited the company in 1870 and developed it into one of the leading shipping and trading enterprises in Asia. He began trading in oil from Russia in the late 19th century and incorporated the company as Shell Transport and Trading in 1898.

Royal Dutch Petroleum Company was established by Dutch industrialist Aeilko Zijlker in 1890 in The Hague and began drilling for oil on Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies. Dutch accountant Henri Deterding became chief executive of Royal Dutch in 1901. Deterding's strategy of forming alliances led to the creation, with Shell Transport, of the Asiatic Petroleum Company in 1903 and the merger of Royal Dutch and Shell Transport four years later. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group, 60 percent owned by Royal Dutch and 40 percent by Shell Transport, expanded rapidly, developing oil fields in Venezuela, Russia, the United States, Nigeria, and the Gulf of Mexico. Royal Dutch/Shell Group's production was never concentrated in the Middle East. For this reason, the company avoided much of the disruption in supply that occurred in the 1970s after many nations in the Middle East took control of the oil fields in their countries. During the early 1970s, Shell began to diversify its holdings by purchasing metal and mining interests. The company concentrated its oil exploration efforts in Asia and Latin America and moved aggressively into natural gas production. These strategies helped it remain one of the most profitable major oil companies through the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Weak oil prices forced the company to reduced its workforce by around one-fifth between 1990 and 1995, when the company also sold many of its peripheral businesses, such as metals and pesticides. Also in 1995, a public outcry in Europe forced the company to abandon its plan to sink an oil-storage buoy in the North Atlantic Ocean. Later in the year activists called for the company to shut down its operations in Nigeria after the Nigerian government executed nine prominent pro-democracy dissidents. The dissidents, who included Nigerian author Ken Saro-Wiwa, had challenged the government's environmental and economic policies concerning the operation of oil companies in Nigeria.

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