Thursday 11 June 2020

Shell Going Green: a very big straw in the wind

"Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell is hatching plans for a massive company-wide restructuring in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and to position the 113-year-old oil and gas company for the shift to lower-carbon energy. A special internal project team began work behind closed doors earlier this month and is set to present its findings in the third quarter or early fourth quarter, according to Shell sources"  (Recharge News)
Well, they are all at it these days and I intend to post at greater length shortly.  Incidentally, and in case anyone was wondering, I'd say this is Big, and Real.

On a lighter note, I wonder what codename they've given this effort.  Back in the mists of time when another big downturn in oil price was underway, Shell initiated aother such restructuring programme - rather less radical, of course, but far-reaching nonetheless - and they coined it "SEARCH".  The "S" stood for Shell, of course.

Nobody will ever recall what the rest stood for, because the programme caused such mayhem it soon became known as Stop Everything And (w)Reak Complete Havoc ...



Jan said...

I don't know much about it but I understand many of the large oil companies are working on making hydrogen from the electrolysis of water using excess solar and wind power. Also that the hydrogen can be added to the gas supply at approx 20%.

This could be quite a game-changer. Please tell us more.

Elby the Beserk said...

Worth noting that Shell Oil it was who funded the founding of the now infamous Climate Research Unit (of Climategate emails infamy), before CAGW became a big thing. The original director, HH Lamb who has written extensively on historic climate change* and proxies was I gather horrified when his successor, who he nominated, turned to be an activist as well as a scientist.

And the rest is history.

*eminently accessible to the lay person and recommended reading.

DJK said...

AEP is quite good today in the Telegraph on the pointlessness of the new Chinese nukes.

Anonymous said...

I'm only here for your energy insights. Could you get rid of that other bloke?

Nick Drew said...

Jan - yes, hydrogen is critical and I'll be covering that aspect

anon - thanks but no thanks! CU is the presiding genius around here: he may not be able to spel but he doesn't prose on and on like I do

GridBot said...


To my knowledge the utilities companies are preparing for a hydrogen future, lots of interesting problems to over come, chief amongst which from an asset perspective, is how H2 interacts with existing assets. H2 under high pressure in steel pipes cause “hydrogen embrittlement” the hydrogen molecules are so small that the leach in between atoms within the microstructure steel

Lots of the distribution networks were by fluke made future proof with PE plastic pipe used to replace cast iron distribution pipe.

There is also “Project dolphyn” in play - using renewable power to create hydrogen. All very exciting stuff. Even if you think AGW is up for debate, it would be pretty excellent to be energy independent once more. More than enough North Sea space to achieve this - just a question of brute force investment, economies of scale, and iterative tech improvements.

IMHO carbon stripping methane and storing the carbon is a mugs game. Who wants to be on the hook for the storage vessel integrity? That’s a future litigation problem just waiting to happen. If it’s H2 got to be from a green source.

Plenty of opportunity for capitalists (and probably a good slug of subsidy to boot).

GridBot said...

Another plus 1 for CU. Being an energy dork it’s nice to have a different perspective.

On the subject - what ever happened to BQ? I’d have thought there were some ripe opportunities for satire in the current climate...

Perhaps EK should stand in above the line until he returns.

CityUnslicker said...

Anon - any mroe of that I shall too start writing about Energy. That really winds up ND!

david morris said...


Pop over to

You'll find BQ in fine form, writing about the (mis)adventures of Joe Malone.

Warmly recommended.

Raedwald said...

I can remember getting the cooker converted from CH4 - H2 - CO to North Sea CH4. Still, I don't think it will happen again in reverse - gas will no longer be available as a domestic fuel when the change comes, I expect.

DJK said...

I think I'm correct in saying that the old towns' gas, which was mostly hydrogen, had a lower calorific value on a volume basis than the north sea gas that replaced it (mostly methane). Thus the existing pipe network, built for hydrogen, had plenty of spare capacity for methane. The new infrastructure built in the last forty years or so doesn't have the space capacity to switch back from methane to hydrogen.

dearieme said...

Once upon a time Shell took a punt on nuclear.
That didn't work out well (if memory serves).

All I found on its web page was "Instability in the Middle East at the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s led to a quadrupling of oil prices and meant that the era of cheap energy came to an end. In response, Shell began to diversify, in particular into coal, nuclear power and metals."

Does anyone know how the coal and mineral businesses turned out?

I'd rather like to read an account of the Oil Majors, focussing on their predictions of the energy future and the investments they made accordingly.

E-K said...

I think Anon meant me, CU.

Anonymous said...

"I'd rather like to read an account of the Oil Majors, focussing on their predictions of the energy future and the investments they made accordingly."

Unfortunately Antony Sampson's The Seven Sisters dates back to 1974, so won't cover future energy. Don't know if anyones written a successor book - ND?

Raedwald said...

So I reckon domestic heating in 2030 will come down to one of 2 choices - either electric, or Soviet-style district heating schemes, which will heat existing LP domestic HW systems through a heat exchanger, which will go where the boiler was, with feed and return pipes, possibly HP, running in the old gas pipe pathway. New DH plants, each serving a few hundred homes, can be built with new boiler plant burning the new high-H2 gas.

There will be some exciting commercial opportunities there ..

Nick Drew said...

if anyones written a successor book?

What you'll find if you google for this is 2 books by Daniel Yergin: The Prize (1991) - very famous, Pulitzer etc - and the Quest (2011)

Unfortunately I can't recommend them, or him, notwithtanding his Pulitzer

(a) he seems to believe in econometrics / "fundamentals" price forecasting etc, which AFAIAC puts him in the astrology camp (though he's not as bad as some). Like so many of the *public energy expert* ilk, he was (e.g.) very late to acknowledge the shale revolution, then scrambled to make out like he'd known about it all along

(b) I have had some business dealings with him (well, he tried unsuccessfully to sell me something), and he's not someone I'd, errr, choose to engage with again ...

Anonymous said...

@Dearieme - Shell bought Biliton back in 1970. That was the major mining diversification they took.

old git carlisle said...

When we commissioned stage 1 reformer at East Greenwich we were venting lean gas approx 50 % hydrogen. The vented gas caught light and as duty Shift Controller I injected steam and nitrogen into stack . the gas relit the resulting sharp crack sounded like an anti aircraft gun firing. I am very wary about hydrogen in houses.

Also hydrogen has a reverse Joule Thompson effect and when decompressed heats up!!

Correct about permeability of steel to hydrogen but at high temperatures.

Ideas about use of gas reticulation require careful thought don't see how 50 mm service would transmit enough hot water

Capacity of system is legit thought have not done sums but hydrogen only approx one third of that of natural gas.

Could go on a lot more but would need to quote checked out figures.

dearieme said...

"Soviet-style district heating schemes"

Or red-bloodied American district heating schemes, according to an old friend who grew up in Minnesota.