Vacuum Oil Company started selling lubricating oils in Europe in the late 19th century. By the 1930s its Mobiloil had become one of the main brands. Mobil gradually expanded its operation into fuels retailing as well, and opened its first UK service stations in the early 1950s, after the wartime POOL monopoly was disbanded. Mobil grew to become the seventh largest brand of petrol in Britain supplying 1,990 outlets in 1965, and claimed in the mid-1960s to be the first company to operate 100 self-service stations. As well as its downstream interests, Mobil was active in the North Sea and operated an oil refinery in Coryton (opened in 1953), on the Thames estuary. In 1996, the Mobil’s fuels operations in Europe were placed into a joint venture 70% owned by BP and the Mobil brand disappeared from service stations. Mobil continued to sell lubricants through BP and independent service stations. Following Mobil’s merger with Exxon, at the start of 2000 BP acquired all the petrol retailing assets as well as the Coryton refinery (but sold it to Petroplus in 2007). Mobil returned to being purely a lubricant brand in Europe, and became the premium quality oil on sale at Esso service stations.