The roots of the Ampol story reach back to 1900, when R.W. Cameron & Co began acting as the Australian operator for The Texas Company (later to became Texaco). The business grew, and in 1918, The Texas Company Australasia Limited was incorporated in New South Wales.
BIRTH OF AN ICON
In early 1936, Sir William Gaston Walkley, along with William Arthur O'Callaghan and George Hutchison, approached the NRMA and offered to help it form a company to market petrol in response to concerns about inequitable petrol pricing and transfer pricing by foreign oil companies. While deciding not to officially sponsor an oil company, members of the NRMA's board sought investors, and on 23 March 1936, the Australian Motorists Petrol Company was incorporated in New South Wales.
Uniquely, it was the first oil company in which the Australian public could buy shares. The first delivery of oil was received at White Bay soon after, and with its garage pumps ready to fill tanks, the Australian Motorists Petrol Company was officially in business.
1936 also saw the birth of the Caltex brand as the California Texas Oil Company, or CalTex, which was a joint venture between Standard Oil of California (Chevron) and the Texas Company (Texaco). The company operated in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, with the name first being used in Australia in 1941.
By 1939, William Gaston Walkey had joined the Ampol Board as Managing Director, and he would lead the company for almost 30 years.
AN EVOLVING BRAND
During World War II, the progress of petrol sales stalled. As lubricating oil and grease were not rationed, and because so many men were unavailable to work, the company drafted women to go on the road as salespeople.
The Australian Motorists Petrol Company was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 1948. A year later it changed its name to the iconic brand that would be loved across Australia for many years to come: Ampol Petroleum Ltd.
With the Menzies government abolishing petrol rationing in place since World War II, Ampol experienced exponential growth through the 1950s. From the first company-owned service station (on Military Road, Mosman, NSW) to promotions and sponsorships that included soccer competitions in all states, and even TV coverage of the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, Ampol was part of Australia’s post-war boom. This boom accelerated even further when in 1953, Ampol struck oil in the Exmouth Gulf.
Along with Caltex (which completed construction of its Kurnell Refinery in 1955), Golden Fleece and Solo Oil, Ampol strengthened their retail presence through the construction of new, single-brand service stations throughout this decade. The chain of Golden Fleece, which would later be owned by the company, had roadside restaurants that were particularly well-known with its distinctive yellow signage and golden sheep livery.
A MAJOR MILESTONE
The construction of the Lytton Refinery in the 1960s was an important milestone for both Ampol and Australia, as it gave the nation its first wholly owned processing facility, coming into operation in July 1965. The year prior, Caltex opened its Kurnell refinery in Sydney - Australia’s first lube oil refinery.
In 1968, The Texas Company Australasia Limited changed its name to Caltex Petroleum Corp.
RESEARCH AND DIVERSIFICATION
Ampol took a major step forward in 1970 when it established a Research and Development Laboratory to advance product development, including the additive components of Ampol’s unleaded petrol.
This decade also saw Ampol diversify heavily, with moves into retail redevelopment under Ampol Realty and Ampol Property Development, as well as coal mining, uranium processing and iron ore mining and computer services under Security Computer Services. Ampol even obtained a 20 per cent interest in Arena Management, which managed the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
AS AUSTRALIAN AS AMPOL
The addition of over 200 retail outlets broadened Caltex’s marketing base with takeovers of the Golden Fleece company in 1981, and Total Australia and Total Refineries Australia in 1983. The Total Matraville Refinery and Botany Terminal in Sydney further improved its distribution systems.
In 1988, Pioneer International acquired full ownership of Ampol, and the following year, purchased Solo Oil Limited, at that time the largest independent retailer and distributor in Australia.
Ampol celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1986 by upgrading its service stations across the country and introducing a new corporate image television advertising campaign. In 1989, Ampol released the iconic As Australian as Ampol campaign, which many Australians still remember today.
TWO GIANTS COME TOGETHER
In May 1995, Ampol and Caltex merged petroleum refining and marketing assets to form Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd which, in 1997, became Caltex Petroleum Australia Ltd, the largest refiner-marketer in Australia. The company now housed three iconic brands: Ampol, Caltex and Golden Fleece.
Although almost all of its business moved to using the Caltex branding at this time, the Ampol brand remained in use for a number of years in some country areas. The Ampol brand was initially brought back in 2013 to be the face of Caltex’s trading and shipping business in Singapore.
MORE MERGERS SIGNAL CHANGE
In 2001, Chevron and Texaco merged to become ChevronTexaco, later renamed to Chevron Corporation in 2005.
At this stage in our history, Caltex Petroleum Australia Pty Ltd was 50 per cent owned by Chevron, and 50 per cent by Australian shareholders. But that would soon change.
INDEPENDENCE AND EXPANSION
In 2015, the company converted its Kurnell refinery to an import terminal.
In March 2015, Chevron sold its 50 per cent stake in Caltex Petroleum Australia Pty Ltd to Australian shareholders, giving them full ownership.
With its newfound independence, Caltex Australia focused on overseas expansion, adding Ampol Singapore in 2013,
Gull New Zealand in 2017, and in 2018 buying a 20 per cent equity interest in Seaoil in the Philippines. In early 2020, the trading and shipping operation would expand into the United States of America with the opening of an office in Houston.
THE RETURN OF AN ICON
In December 2019, Caltex announced it would bring back the iconic Ampol brand to Australian shores. In May 2020, at its Annual General Meeting, shareholders approved the new company name and it officially changed its corporate entity to Ampol Limited.