MOBIL Oil Hong Kong celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. But the history of the Mobil corporation stretches back to the discovery of kerosene. The cost-efficient lubricating oil made its debut in 1866, by accident, when an employee distilled crude oil in a vacuum. In order to produce and market the oil, Mobil formed a company, Vacuum Oil Company. Ultimately, Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) bought a controlling interest in Vacuum Oil. With an eye to a burgeoning market, Socony started selling products through an agent to China. As prospects developed, it opened offices. Ningpo in Zhejiang province was the first in 1885. Within 10 years, offices and agents were established in Shanghai, Hong Kong and four other Asian countries. Around this time the company chose 'Mei Foo' as its trade mark and achieved a marketing coup with kerosene. In order to maximise its benefits, the oil had to be burned in a lamp. But the average household in China could not afford one. Socony manufactured a lamp and sold it at a give-away price. As a result, the company's kerosene sales rocketed. Petrol stations also appeared and Socony's first opened in Kowloon in 1926. Two years later, the first Mobil station appeared in front of City Hall in Central. In 1931, the two companies formed Socony-Vacuum and, two years later, it merged with Standard Oil of New Jersey to form Standard-Vacuum Oil Company, known as Stanvac. During this period, the arrival of the motor vehicle increased the demand for petroleum and oil. By the start of World War II, Stanvac was drilling, refining and marketing crude oil across the world. When an embargo was placed on dealing with China during and after the Korean War, more attention was paid to Hong Kong. This was emphasised by the formation of the Mobil Petroleum Company in 1960. Mobil Oil Hong Kong was established four years later. Just as a kerosene lamp had been manufactured for China, so kerosene stoves were introduced in Hong Kong. But prosperity in the 1960s led to kerosene's replacement by liquid petroleum gas (LPG). To promote it, Mobil set up a cooking school. As the territory developed industrially, space diminished. In 1967, Mobil opened a new terminal on Tsing Yi island to replace its one at Lai Chi Kok. Three times larger than the previous terminal, the Tsing Yi terminal had an 860,000-barrel capacity in 46 steel tanks, a lubricating oil plant capable of producing 150,000 barrels a year and the ability to handle ocean-going tankers. Twenty years later, the pier was rebuilt to cope with 5.2 million barrels a year. The company pulled a surprise in 1967 by developing a housing estate, Mei Foo Sun Chuen, on part of the Lai Chi Kok site. It was the first time that a major private company had developed an estate of this size in Hong Kong.