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Shell appoints John Abbott as new downstream head

A Shell logo is seen at a petrol station in Ankara March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's biggest oil company Royal Dutch Shell named John Abbott as its new downstream director on Thursday and said he would join the company's executive committee.

A Briton and a Shell "lifer" who joined straight from university in 1981, Abbott takes on the role as Shell and its fellow top-tier multinational oil companies face pressure to re-invent themselves. Returns on investment are slowing and big projects are becoming ever more expensive.

Some smaller oil companies in the United States have demerged their refining divisions into separate companies in an attempt to deliver more clarity of direction for investors.

Abbott, whose new position takes effect from October 1, takes over the downstream role from Ben van Beurden, who will become Royal Dutch Shell's new chief executive from January 1 next year.

Like many of Shell's senior executives past and present, Abbott has been with the company for more than three decades. He joined the group in 1981 and has held management posts in in Asia, north America and Europe in the upstream oil producing side of the business as well as in refining.

Van Beurden is replacing Peter Voser, who surprised insiders and shareholders earlier this year with news he will retire at the age of 55.

(Reporting by Sarah Young and Andrew Callus; Editing by Clara Ferreira-Marques)