The world’s sixth-largest oil company is working hard on preparing a future without fossil fuels — actively building up a portfolio of wind and PV projects, as well as developing a range of emerging technologies, a senior executive tells Recharge.
“Our New Energies group covers a number of activities — solar, onshore and offshore wind, energy integration, strategy innovation and, last but not least, fuels,” says Matthew Tipper, vice-president of new fuels within Shell’s New Energies unit.
“My role is to develop new fuels for the group, so a particular focus on transportation — literally everything from planes to trains to automobiles. And the fuels that we’re developing most actively are hydrogen, battery-electric vehicle charging, biofuels — both conventional and advanced biofuels — and synthetic fuels made from methane and potentially other materials.
“New Energies is established to ensure that as and when petrol and diesel are phased out, if that ever happens, that we do have alternative sources of energy and energy carriers that we can deploy. The world’s still going to need energy, we don’t accept the premise that we’ll be out of business should fossil fuels be phased out.”
Tipper explains that the New Energies unit is taking an experimental, hands-on approach to new sources of energy.
“We’ve given ourselves until the next two or three years to experiment with a number of technologies, [to] learn by doing. So this isn’t desktop work, this requires investment in different activities, businesses and projects and essentially to bring ourselves to a deeper understanding, to a practical understanding, so that we continue to invest further in 2020 and beyond.”
He says that Shell is taking a three-pronged approach to future energy.
“Essentially, you have a choice: you have liquids, gases and electrons. In the liquids, if it’s not oil, we have biofuels made from biomaterials, plant waste and such like. In gases, there’s really a choice between methane — fossil methane or biomethane — or hydrogen; and then clearly in the electrons, we have renewable power, so wind and solar through to batteries and into vehicles. So we’re experimenting in all of those.
“I’m trying to think of a future fuel that anyone’s taking remotely seriously that we’re not involved in, and I’m struggling.”