Meet the Scientists

Yuri Sebregts

Yuri Sebregts

Executive Vice President Innovation and R&D and Chief Technology Officer

Yuri Sebregts was appointed Executive Vice President Innovation and R&D in January 2015. His role is to ensure that Shell develops and deploys technologies and services to deliver projects and new products across the world faster and more economically.

Yuri was also appointed as Chief Technology Officer, making him responsible for the technology strategy at Shell. He has held several technical and managerial positions and worked on a number of international assignments in Shell’s Chemicals, Refining and Lubricants businesses.

He completed his MSc in chemistry at Leiden University in the Netherlands and joined Shell as a technologist at the Shell Moerdijk Chemical plant in 1991.

Yuri is married with two daughters and lives in the Netherlands.

Video testimonial

Yuri Sebregts speaks about the crucial role of innovation in building a sustainable energy future, and how we can boost economic development while managing our water and waste footprints.

Watch Yuri’s video on YouTube


May 26, 2016 - The innovation challenge: accelerating technology advancement.

Nov 19, 2015 - The innovation challenge: accelerating the take-off of technology.

Lance Cook

Chief Scientist Well Engineering and Production Technology

Lance switched from studying archeology to study petroleum engineering at the University of Texas, USA for better job prospects. He was right as, after graduating in 1979, Lance joined Shell and went to work in drilling for its engineering and mechanical challenges.

Lance started his career in the USA, first in New Orleans, Louisiana, then in Anchorage, Alaska, as an engineer in Shell’s exploration drilling programme. Next he moved to Houston, Texas, where he would spend the next 25 years in a variety of roles, including heading a Shell joint venture that commercialised and refined revolutionary expandable casing liner for use in deep water.

In 2007, Lance was appointed Shell Vice President of Global Technology working with Shell’s joint venture with China National Petroleum Corporation. In late 2011, Lance was appointed Chief Operating Officer for Sirius Well Manufacturing Services in Beijing and moved to China. There he helped create a unique well manufacturing system for oil and gas production, similar to a production line in the car industry. In 2012, while in that role, he took on the extra responsibility of Shell Chief Scientist Well Engineering and Production Technology. 

In 2015, Lance moved back to the USA where he acts as Chief Scientist and leads drilling and automation R&D.

Video testimonial

Watch the video: Lance Cook reveals an efficient approach to unlocking tightly trapped gas that can help meet the world’s growing energy demand.

Watch Lance’s video on YouTube

John M. Karanikas

John M. Karanikas

Chief Scientist Reservoir Engineering

From an early age John had a strong interest in electronics. Later he decided to study the physics behind it. He graduated in 1991 from The Ohio State University with a PhD in condensed matter physics. While studying he became fascinated by the energy industry.

After university John joined Shell as a member of the Bellaire Research Center team in Houston, USA. The team was developing ways to unlock resources of oil sands and oil trapped in shale by using heaters to crack the heavy oil into lighter fractions.

John has worked in reservoir engineering for more than 19 years, helping to develop advanced models of below the Earth’s surface and advising on the design and operation of field tests. He holds more than 70 patents.

Currently, John is a Technology Advisor at the Unconventional Technologies department and was appointed Chief Scientist Reservoir Engineering in 2010.

Video testimonial

Shell Chief Scientist Reservoir Engineering John Karanikas talks about using advanced mathematical modelling to learn more about rock and fluid properties and how this, combined with novel technologies, is helping to unlock vast resources of hard-to-produce oil and gas.

Watch John’s video on YouTube

Vianney Koelman

Vianney Koelman

Chief Scientist Petrophysics

In his youth, Vianney built his own radio, launched a home-made rocket, and constructed his own telescope. Slowly his curiosity turned towards fundamental physics.

Vianney went on to obtain a PhD in physics from Eindhoven University of Technology, before joining Shell Research and Development in the Netherlands.

That was almost three decades ago. Since then he has worked in a number of petroleum engineering, petrophysics and leadership roles in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Currently he combines his position as Chief Scientist with Vice President of Computational Technologies, leading a global R&D team based at Shell Technology Centre Bangalore. He works on world-leading earth rock and algorithmic modelling projects and oversees the innovative Computational Science for Energy Research programme, which will bring 75 PhD students from India to pursue R&D in the Netherlands and push the boundaries of computational science research.

Video testimonial

Shell Chief Scientist Petrophysics Vianney Koelman discusses using innovative fibre-optic technology to closely monitor underground oil and gas production and help boost oil and gas recovery.

Watch Vianney’s video on YouTube

Carl Mesters

Carl Mesters

Chief Scientist Chemistry and Catalysis

Catalysts have been the focus of Carl Mesters’ work for 30 years - leading to his appointment in 2005 as Shell Chief Scientist Chemistry and Catalysis.

Since joining Shell in 1984, Carl has been active in catalysis and process R&D across many areas, resulting in more than 60 patents filed. He is currently working on heavy oil conversion and is based at Shell Technology Center Houston. He previously spent two years there developing catalysts used to produce ethylene oxide, an essential building block for synthetic fabric, plastic bottles and anti-freeze.

He also developed a new catalyst to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from chemical plants. Carl has contributed significant knowledge to the Pearl GTL (gas-to-liquids) plant in the Middle East, where catalysts are central to the process of converting natural gas to liquid fuels and other products.

Carl is a former Chairman of the Catalysis Society of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society. He pursued a degree in physical and inorganic chemistry at the University of Utrecht in his native Netherlands, where he also completed a research PhD.

Video testimonial

Carl talks about catalysis to produce novel transport fuels.

Watch Carl’s video on YouTube

Joe Powell

Joe Powell

Chief Scientist Chemical Engineering

Joe Powell leads research in chemical engineering and process development for Shell. He obtained his BS in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia, USA, in 1978, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, in 1984.

Joe joined the Chemical Development Department at Shell’s Technology Center Houston in 1988 and has led major R&D programmes in process chemicals, biofuels, enhanced oil recovery and related energy topics. He has been Shell’s Chief Scientist Chemical Engineering since 2006. 

His achievements in the process development field have been rewarded with more than 55 patents and several industry awards. Joe has a keen interest in sustainability, leading the Hunters network for identification of new technology, and has co-authored a book on sustainability in process industries. Joe is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Video testimonial

Shell Chief Scientist Joe Powell talks about how Shell is developing innovative technology to deliver the energy our customers need, make our operations more energy-efficient, offer products that help customers use less energy and manage CO2 emissions.

Watch Joe’s video on YouTube

Dirk Smit

Dirk Smit

Chief Scientist Geophysics

Dirk obtained a PhD in mathematical physics before teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. He joined Shell in 1992 and his roles have included chief geophysicist for Shell UK and technology manager for Global Exploration. Currently he is Vice President of Exploration Technology.

Dirk also holds a visiting faculty position in the Earth Science department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and has a visiting professorship in Geoscience at the Chinese University of Petroleum in Beijing, China.

He was awarded the Ludwig Mintrop Award in geophysics by the European Association of Geophysicists and Engineers in 2002.

He is a member of the National Research Council on Solid Earth Observations in the USA, the National Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter, and the physics branch of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Video testimonial

Shell Chief Scientist Geophysics, Dirk Smit, discusses how innovative technologies – sometimes developed in unusual R&D partnerships – help energy companies to explore for harder-to-find oil and gas resources.

Watch Dirk’s video on YouTube

Wolfgang Warnecke

Wolfgang Warnecke

Chief Scientist Mobility

Dr Wolfgang Warnecke was appointed Shell’s Chief Scientist Mobility in May 2011. His expertise in all forms of mobility, vehicle technology, fuels and lubricants sees him advising on technology strategy, championing science, R&D and innovation, enhancing Shell’s technical reputation in the fast-changing area of mobility and looking ahead to future solutions.

Wolfgang studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Hannover, specialising in automotive combustion engines, and gained a PhD in automotive engineering from Hamburg Technical University in 1987.

Since joining Shell on graduation, Wolfgang has gained extensive experience in Germany and the UK as a scientist and business leader in the fields of lubricant development, engine testing and vehicle technology, technical services for lubricants, and fuels marketing.

In 2005, Wolfgang, together with Dr Wolfgang Steiger of Volkswagen, was awarded the “Professor Ferdinand Porsche Prize”, considered by many to be the world's most prestigious award for automotive engineers, for their work on synthetic fuels development.

Wolfgang is also Managing Director of Shell’s Technology Centre in Hamburg, Germany, which specialises in fuels and lubricants development and engine and vehicle technology.

Read Wolfgang’s Inside Energy interview: Driving into a low-carbon future

Video testimonial

Watch the video: Wolfgang Warnecke discusses how innovative products and technologies will help meet the world’s growing demand for transport with fewer CO2 emissions.

Watch Wolfgang’s video on YouTube


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