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Shell Strikes It Rich in LNG Lottery While Tossing Crumbs of Greenery to the Masses

Posted by John Donovan: 3 Feb 24

Once upon a time, Shell, the oil behemoth with a soft spot for environmental exploitation, threw down a whopping $70 billion to snatch up the British gas company BG Group. This wasn’t just your average mega-corporation hoarding; no, this was Shell’s grand pivot to become a titan in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) arena. Until then, their portfolio was just your run-of-the-mill pipeline gas and, of course, our planet’s lifeblood – oil.

The big bet? LNG could be the golden ticket. Europe was giving Russian gas the cold shoulder, and for everyone else, LNG was like a trendy detox diet for their energy consumption – not quite the green smoothie of wind and solar, but hey, it was something. Shell theorized that because natural gas throws fewer tantrums than oil, we could still pat ourselves on the back for fighting climate change.

Fast forward to today, and Shell is smirking all the way to the bank, flaunting a cool profit of over $28 billion for 2023. Yes, it’s a dip from the jaw-dropping $40 billion profit in the previous year, but let’s not split hairs. Shell called these profits from its LNG division “exceptional results,” modestly ignoring that they were rolling in dough thanks to a crisis they probably sent a fruit basket to thank.

But oh, the spoils of war meant treats for the shareholders! Dividends were upped by 4%, and Shell is set to buy back shares worth $3.5 billion. It’s like finding out your rich uncle is Santa, and you’re his only heir.

Shell’s LNG adventure turned out to be the ‘transition fuel’ fairy tale they hoped for. From China to Germany, countries are hitching their wagons to Shell’s LNG star, hoping it’s a greener pasture. Critics, however, are not buying the green dream Shell is selling. Milieudefensie’s Sjoukje van Oosterhout didn’t mince words, accusing Shell of steering the planet towards doom with its relentless fossil fuel projects. Yet, Shell wants a cookie for its half-hearted green initiatives, like building a hydrogen factory and dabbling in biomass.

Jean-Paul van Oudheusden, a market analyst, gushed about Shell’s moves as if they were setting the chessboard for an environmental checkmate. He’s particularly thrilled about Shell’s foray into ‘high-quality’ lubricating oils and coolants, which is apparently a big deal for the AI world’s energy consumption. It’s like Shell is the knight in shining armour for the future of AI, one lubricant at a time.

As Shell gears up for its next “strategy update,” CEO Sawan is busy making Shell as alluring as possible, trimming the fat and optimizing operations with “millions of sensors” that gather “more than 5 trillion rows of data.” It’s as if Shell is turning into the Big Brother of oil, watching over its empire with a digital eye.

So, as Sawan parrots his commitment to being the most dashing suitor in the energy transition ball, one has to wonder if Shell’s green veneer will hold up or if it’s just another oil slick on the road to sustainability. Only time will tell, but for now, Shell’s LNG gamble is paying off handsomely, with just enough green sprinkles to make it look appetizing.

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