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.

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

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

Shell Chief Scientist -  Chemical Engineering

Joe Powell is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and has been Shell’s Chief Scientist - Chemical Engineering since 2006. In 1988, he joined the Process Development Department at Shell Technology Center Houston where he has led R&D programs in new chemical processes, biofuels, and enhanced oil recovery, in addition to a Hunters innovation group.

Through his work in R&D, Joe has been granted almost 50 patents with 91 applications pending. He has received several industry awards including the Arthur D Little Award for Chemical Engineering Innovation (AIChE 1998) and American Chemical Society Team Innovation Award (2000).

He is co-editor and chapter author for the book Sustainable Development in the Process Industries: Cases and Impact, and has served AIChE in various roles before being elected to its Board of Directors in 2016.

Joe currently serves on the US National Academy Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, the US Department of Energy Hydrogen Technical Advisory Committee and the Editorial Committee of Annual Review of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He obtained a PHD in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984, following a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia in 1978.  

Joe is a proud father of three sons and lives with his wife in Houston, TX.

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.

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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