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Shell’s Voser Sees Time as Top Renewables Challenge

BLOOMBERG

By Sonja Franklin and Reg Curren

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) — Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, said the time needed for large-scale deployment of new energy sources is a bigger challenge than technological advances in replacing fossil fuels.

It takes a decade to bring a major energy project involving new technology to commercial production, Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said today at a conference in Calgary. It takes at least another 25 years for a new energy source to obtain a 1 percent share of the global market, said the Swiss- born Voser, 51, who succeeded Jeroen van der Veer as CEO at Shell, based in The Hague, in July.

Voser said renewable energy sources such as wind power and biofuels will provide about 30 percent of the world’s energy supplies by 2050. As global energy demand resumes growing, he said, oil producers will need to increase recoveries from existing fields and open “new frontiers” to keep up.

Shell said in May that it will boost spending on biofuels this year and next to create a “commercial-size” renewables business. The company said earlier this year it will focus on biofuels and the capture and storage of carbon dioxide, or CCS, at the expense of solar and wind energy.

Oil-sands projects may supply 6 percent of the world’s oil supplies excluding OPEC nations, Voser said. Projects in the tar-like sands produce just 5 percent to 15 percent more carbon- dioxide emissions than conventional wells, and technological advances, such as CCS, will close the gap, he said.

Athabasca

Shell operates the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, which can produce about 155,000 barrels of crude a day, and it has a 100,000-barrel-a-day expansion under way that may cost C$12.8 billion ($11.9 billion). Shell owns 60 percent of the venture. Chevron Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp. each own 20 percent.

Voser said that without adequate investment in new sources of supply, energy prices may spike in four or five years. “With reduced investments, when demand comes back in 2013, ‘14, ‘15, we may face a supply problem,” he said.

A lack of stable regulatory frameworks and carbon policy will contribute to increasing volatility in oil prices, Voser said. “I don’t see a major tool that we have in our hands to actually stabilize that,” he said.

New York oil futures, which dropped from a record of $147.27 a barrel in July 2008 to as low as $32.40 in December, have climbed 55 percent this year. Crude fell below $70 today on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Natural-gas prices in North America will rise in the long term, Voser said, without specifying a level. Prices for the heating and power-plant fuel have dropped 47 percent this year as the recession erodes demand.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sonja Franklin in Calgary at [email protected]; Reg Curren in Calgary at [email protected].

Last Updated: September 11, 2009 16:02 EDT

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