History of Petroleum

Max Farrugia


Messrs Degiorgio and Azzopardi were appointed managing agents for the Asiatic Petroleum Co. Ltd. and became responsible for the distribution of all Shell products in Malta. The first consignment of kerosene in 4 gallon tins arrived by schooner from Augusta, Sicily. These were stored at the Sawmill Street, Msida warehouse.


A large storage depot for packed petrol was acquired at St. Francis Bastion, Floriana.




The Shell Installation at Birzebbugia was officially inaugurated. This was the first of its kind in Malta and had a combined storage capacity of 6.500,000-gallon drums and 2-gallon petrol cans. Fuel oil was imported for the first time and used as ships’ bunker fuel.


Products had to be transported to the Company’s depots by mule drawn carts. The journey from Birzebbugia to the respective depots at Msida and Floriana took over two hours. Large stock of fuel oil were discharged at the Installation within a few weeks of its opening. This product was now available in Malta for the first time essentially for use as ship’s bunker fuel.



The 500-foot (150 meters) jetty at Birzebbugia came into service.



On 25th June 1924 at the early age of 42, Mr. Henry Degiorgio died and Mr. J.C. Degiorgio become the sole managing representative for Shell in the Maltese Islands.

The first packed lorry and the first two bulk lorries made their appearance in 1924. The bulk lorries were used for the transport of kerosine from Birzebbugia to the town distribution centers, replacing the slow moving horse drawn carts. Petrol was then still

handled in 2 gallon cans and the packed lorry was used for conveyance of this product.

For many years kerosine was by far the most important oil product having gradually taken the place of coal as the biggest single source of energy. In the 1920’s, however, the motorcar industry entered the stage of active development and kerosine lost its early denomination. The number of registered motor vehicles in Malta has risen from 700 in 1920 to over 5000 in the late 1920’s.


The first petrol pumps were installed in 1928. These were at the British Motor Company Depot at Gzira and Marsa Sports Club, Marsa. More petrol pumps were fixed in various garages during the first year of introduction. This was due to the expansion of the car industry during the first decade of their introduction.


Shell was entrusted with operations involving the supply of bitumen and the provision of special equipment for the surfacing of roads. In the following year they were entrusted with the surfacing of Luqa, Hal Far and Ta Qali Airfields.


Two other tanks were erected at Birzebbugia installation bringing the aggregate capacity to 8,000,000 imperial gallons.


Trade in the Maltese Islands justified the formation of a separate associated company within the Royal Dutch-Shell Group and thus the Shell Company (Malta) Ltd. was born.




Foreseeing the future development of the aviation industry, Shell constructed a storage tank of Aviation spirit at Birzebbugia and the first cargo was received during this year. Amongst the well-known aviators who refueled at Malta during this year were Sir Alan Cobham and Miss Amy Johnson both carrying out long-range unaccompanied flights to Australia.


The Marine fuelling station at Marsaxlokk was used by Shell to refuel the flying boats of Imperial Airways, the forerunner of B.O.A.C.


On the outbreak of war Mr. J. C. Degorgio, Shell’s Chief in Malta was appointed Deputy of Ministerial oils. He was responsible for the storage and movement of all commercial stocks in Malta. He was also responsible for the rationing system during the war. Mr. Degorgio was also a non-elected member in the council of Government.


It was nearly impossible for oil tankers to reach Malta during the year. Submarines were fitted with special tanks holding 230 tons of fuel to transport fuel so that R.A.F. operations would not be jeopardized. The fuel used to be discharged via the Shell jetty at Birzebbugia and removed immediately to underground storage at Wied Dalam. This kept the day-to-day running of the aircrafts smooth.


The Shell offices in Valletta were demolished due to enemy action and the offices were transferred to the Cisk Brewery, Hamrun.


Mr. J.C. Degiorgio was appointed the first Maltese as manager for Shell (Malta) Ltd.


The Shell Depot at Marsa was handed back to the Company by the R.A.F. authorities. After undergoing extensive war damage repairs it came into operation once more during the following year. The Msida depot was closed down during the same year.


A new vessel, registered under the name of “Arzella”, was introduced into service. This was essential for maintaining adequate fuel oil stock for the Power Station and at the Grand Harbour.




This year saw the introduction of the first filling and service stations on our roads. This was due to the rapid increase in the number of cars in Malta. Kerosene continued to be distributed by hawkers, as it is at present.


Two further bulk oil tanks were constructed at Birzebbugia Installation bringing the capacity to 11,500,000 gallons.


Work started on the construction of a new installation for the storage of fuel oil at Marsa.


The Grand harbour Installation was officially opened by H.E. the Governor Sir Guy Grantham. During the same year the lighter Arzella and the depot at Marsa were sold. The latter had been in service since 1946.


The pipeline linking the Shell Installation at the Grand Harbour and the Power Station was inaugurated. This 2000 feet (600 metres) pipeline is submerged along the seabed where it crosses the entrance to the innermost creek of the Grand Harbour.



Enemalta Petroleum Division took over the responsibilities previously entrusted to the Oil Supply Section of the Ministry of Development. In order to carry out this work Enemalta Corporation and Shell Company (Malta) Ltd. reached agreement to make use of the Company’s facilities available on the island.


An agreement was signed between the Government and Shell Company (Malta) Ltd., by means of which it transferred the principal assets of the company to Enemalta Corporation. Apart from the Birzebbugia Main fuel Installation and Luqa Aviation Fuel Depot, it also included the petrol filling stations in the various towns and villages. Arrangements were also made with the British Services for the take over of all fuel facilities operated by the Services. Among these was Has Saptan Installation, Corradino Installation, St. Lucian (Marsaxlokk) tanks, and other installations at Luqa, Tal-Handaq, Wied Dalam, St. Georges Bay Pumping Station, and Hal Far tanks. Enemalta reached agreement with The Esso Co. (Malta) for the acquisition of the company’s ocean installation at Qajjenza Birzebbugia.


The petrol /diesel dispensing pumps were converted to the metric system in all the retail stations in Malta.


A contract was signed with Messrs Weglokoks, the Polish Coal supply Company for the importation of coal for Boiler No. 6 at the Marsa Power station.


The San Lucian Oil Co. Ltd. was set up by the Corporation as a joint venture with the Italian Company Jacorossi SPA to ensure better utilisation of the facilities at Has Saptan. A contract with the USSR Bunkering Company, Sovbuner, for the bunkering of Soviet Merchant and passenger vessels in Malta was also signed. They made use of Has Saptan for their storage facilities.


A new tank with a capacity of 8,000mt. tons was erected at Birzebbugia Installation to be utilised for the storage of JET A 1 to be able to cope with market demands. A new submarine pipeline was installed to replace the “ex-Shell” pier system.


Lead-free petrol was introduced on the local market. A 4000mt. ton tank at the Birzebbugia Installation was refurbished for the storage of this product. Supply was made available to a number of filling stations at strategic traffic points. A 10,000 metric ton new storage tank was completed and calibrated.



The Corporation set up three fuel stations at yacht marinas and other strategic locations in ports and bays to serve sea crafts. These are located at Kalkara, Mgarr(Gozo) and Xemxija. Electronic dispensing pumps installed in various petrol retail stations throughout the island to replace the old mechanical ones still in service.


Enemalta introduced a roster for eight petrol stations to open on Sundays and public holidays to give a better service to local and foreign clients.


The Aviation Section of the Petroleum Division obtained ISO 9002 certificate for operations involving aviation fuels.



A new pipeline between Wied Dalam Installation and the airport bulk Installation was commissioned. This replaced the forty year old worn out military pipeline. During this year the new automatic petrol stations were officially inaugurated. Motorists are now better served having fuel available for longer hours.


Enemalta started to progressively reduce the sulphur content of its fuel oil from 3.5% in 2001 to 1% by the end of 2003. 1% sulphur fuel oil has been exclusively used since then.


Sulphur content of road diesel decreased to 0.035%.


Fuel Oil with a maximum sulphur content of 1% introduced for electricity generation.


Sulphur content of road diesel decreased further to 0.005%. Petroleum Division awarded contract by MIA to perform ‘into-plane’ operations at Luqa Airport.


Publication of Expression of Interest, in the granting of a concession, for management of the Petroleum Division.


Sulphur content of Gasoil for electricity generation and inland market dropped to 0.1% from 0.2%. Introduction of 0.7% sulphur fuel oil for electricity generation for the Delimara Power Station. Sulphur content of road diesel dropped to 0.001%.


Sulphur content of fuel oil for electricity generation at both power stations is further decreased and limited to 0.7%.


Due to amendments to the fuel quality directive limiting the content of certain metals in gasoline, the marketing of LRP had to be suspended. Introduction of bio-diesel in road-diesel.


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