John Augustus Oriel CBE MC: 1955—1957
Born at Dowlais, South Wales in 1896, John Oriel obtained his BSc in chemistry and was still studying at Cardiff University at the outbreak of the First World War. Immediately he joined the Army and served with the Royal Artillery. He was wounded three times, temporarily blinded by mustard gas and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the Battle of Arras in 1917.
On returning to civilian life, he went up to Jesus College, Cambridge, taking his Part II Natural Science Tripos in 1921, and joining the Shell Group as a chemist in the same year. After serving in various technical posts at Shell Haven and Suez refineries, he was appointed Refinery Manager at Suez in 1934. Following further periods of service with the Shell Group in London, the United States of America, and The Hague until 1938, he was then appointed General Manager of the newly formed "Shell" Refining and Marketing Co Ltd. Two years later he was also appointed to the post of Chief Chemist to the Shell Petroleum and Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Companies.
Among the projects that took shape under his guidance during the Second World War were the design, construction and operation of the Heysham Refinery on behalf of His Majesty's Government, for the manufacture of aviation gasolene which contributed largely to the aviation fuel needs of the Royal Air Force. His other contributions to the war and post-war efforts included the first series of extensions to the refinery at Stanlow and also the comprehensive network of pipelines to carry petroleum products to all parts of the country.
For his many contributions to the Allied War effort John Oriel was created a CBE in 1947. In the immediate post-war period he was also responsible for the construction of Shell's first petroleum chemical plants at Stanlow, followed immediately by the major refinery extensions at both Shell Haven and Stanlow.
In addition to his wide range of activities in the oil industry, he always took a keen interest in educational and scientific development and in 1947 he took an active part in the establishment of the Shell Chair of Chemical Engineering at Cambridge. His other roles within academia included membership of the Chemical Engineering Syndicate and the Board of Studies of the Chair of Chemical Engineering at Cambridge; and of the Board of Advisers on Chemical Engineering at London University. He also served on the Scholarship Committees in Chemical Engineering to University College London, Imperial College and King's College, and was a member of the Consultative Committee at the Sir John Cass College.
By 1948, John Oriel's eyesight, which had troubled him since the First World War, began to seriously deteriorate and although he fought a determined battle, regrettably it was a losing one which led to his retirement from active management with the Shell Group at the end of 1951.
After his retirement he continued to act in an advisory capacity to the Shell Group and he was also a member of the Royal Institution; a Vice President of the Institute of Petroleum; a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, a member of the Executive Council of the World Power Conference; a Council Member of the Society of Chemical Industry; and a member of the Institute of Fuel.
John Oriel's valuable services to the Institution, which were recognised through the award of the Osborne Reynolds Medal in 1953, have included being a Member of Council in 1941 and 1942, a Vice President in 1949 and 1950, Chairman of the Education Committee from 1945-1951, and Chairman of the Nominations Committee from 1952-1955.
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