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Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell

Eric Wesoff 03 04 10

“It’s fun to be an oil and gas CEO.”

Santa Barbara, CA — Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, traveled a long way to speak at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics show this morning.  To give you an idea of the mindset of this particular audience, when polled on their expectations of future fuels, the winning response was nuclear, followed by natural gas.  Which is probably accurate but not the response you’d get from a bunch of enviros.

Shell expects global demand for energy to double by 2050.

Take note: Shell has transformed into a natural gas company.  Since 2004, the oil giant has invested more than $15 billion in natural gas in the United States.  By 2012, they will have more gas production than other fuels, in what he referred to as a twenty- to thirty-year journey.  This is a telling trend.  Wind and solar are nice, but natural gas is what is going to keep the world powered.

Voser reminded the crowd that natural gas produces 50 percent to 70 percent less CO2 than coal and that Shell has been somewhat surprised by the volume of natural gas deposits in the U.S.

In Voser’s words, “We need gas, conventional oil, and all other sources.”  He added that we need coal with carbon capture and sequestration and electromobility.

Shell knows about automobiles and the CEO quoted a few facts, the scariest of which was that his firm expects the number of automobiles to double to two billion by 2050.  He shocked the crowd with his forecast on electric vehicles — Voser said that 40 percent of automobiles will be electric by 2050.   But if EV electromobility is powered by coal, “then we are shooting ourselves in the foot.”

When it comes to renewables, Shell is focused on biofuels and trying to get second-generation biofuels to be economical as well as working on wind power.

Not solar, though.  They have gotten out of solar, both in silicon and CIGS thin film.  Shell can’t see solar as something that they can scale up.  They are “leaving it to smaller and medium size players.”

They are also doing work in tar sands — although he likes the term “oil sands” — which accounts for 2.5 percent of their production.  He thinks of it as a technology of last resort.  They’ve waited 40 years to go after this resource and expect that oil sands can have the footprint of traditional oil.

Voser said, “We need a CO2 price, not a tax,” although he is “skeptical” about energy legislation passing in the U.S. this year.  He added, “What we want is energy legislation which drives supply security and which generates new jobs but also preserves old jobs.”

Voser was in full agreement with T. Boone Pickens on focusing on the U.S.’ own reserves of natural gas “instead of buying oil from our enemies.”


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