National Oil started downstream activities in March 1988 with the importation of its first crude oil cargo for refining at the Mombasa based Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited (KPRL). This was in fulfilment of the Government of Kenya mandate for National Oil to supply 30% of the country's petroleum requirements.
These supplies were sold to major oil marketers at a small margin in bulk prior to processing. One of the other major roles at this time was to act as an advisor of the Government on pricing and other related oil policies.
National Oil’s experience in procurement prevented the award of unjustified price increase to the oil marketers. In some instances, the corporation undertook to bring in all the country's petroleum crude and finished products requirements when private companies declined to do so in order to pressurize the government to concede on their demands for price increases. This was especially evident during the 1989/90 Gulf War when National Oil’s imports sustained the country for about six weeks. By this move, Kenya was the only country in East and Central Africa, which did not experience a shortage of products during these tumultous times.
Since October 1994 when the oil industry was deregulated, the mandate to import 30% of the country's crude oil requirements ceased and National Oil has been competing with the other marketers for the its share of the business.
In 1997, National Oil set up its first 3 flagship stations later in 2005, National Oil acquired ten (10) sites where it set up 6 modern stations complete with spacious forecourts, service bays, shops and restaurant facilities.
National Oil has since grown its retail footprint to a tally of 110 service stations through various strategic expansion models including acquisitions, long term leases and franchising. Notable acquisitions over the period include 13 stations acquired from BP in 2009 and 33 stations from Somken in 2010. Currently, National Oil has a growing count of 110 service stations spread across the country.
Alongside retail network expansion, National Oil has over the years invested heavily in new products development which has seen it launch its Supa brands of LPG and Lubricants as well as an alternative business segment.
National Oil has a current inland retail market share of 10% up from 0.02% in 2008 and plans are underway to attain inland market leadership.