Hitoshi Nishimura Shell

How I introduce energy transition pathways to Japanese refineries

Hitoshi (Jin) discusses why he thinks Japanese refineries need to accelerate energy transition action.

By Hitoshi (Jin) Nishimura, Service Manager Japan at Shell Japan Limited on Jun 6, 2021

Hitoshi (Jin) Nishimura is based in Tokyo where his role at Shell Catalysts & Technologies is Service Manager Japan. First joining Shell in 1989, Hitoshi worked in commercial roles for a variety of Shell Chemicals divisions including Agrochemicals, Fine Chemicals and Base Chemicals, before moving into new business development in the Japanese petroleum industry.

For this five-question interview on “How I Make Every Molecule Matter,” Jin shares his insight into the world of chemicals, the importance of networks in developing Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) projects and why he thinks Japanese refineries need to accelerate energy transition action.

1. What interests you about your work with Japanese refineries?

When I joined Shell Chemicals, I experienced the variety of the chemical business, from very small specialty chemicals to very bulky commodities. In Japan, an employee usually joins a company, not necessarily a job, and that’s partly why I continue to work for Shell. In addition, I’ve had new business development opportunity, such as introducing new applications of EPS.

My work currently focuses on taking care of Japanese technical services agreement (TSA) customers. I think Shell’s direction, and Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ initiative for Make Every Molecule Matter, is very helpful for our TSA customers’ future planning. My goal is to transport Shell’s new energy transition technologies to Japanese refineries and bring learnings back to Shell.

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2. What energy transition challenges are your Japanese customers facing?

How to start the energy transition. Of course, Japanese refineries have already started some activities, such as investing in solar panel manufacturing, power plants and so on. But the social requirement for new energy is increasing, and Japanese refineries need to consider scaling up their initiatives and rapidly change their business direction.

The bigger portion of their business is still related to manufacturing and sales of conventional petroleum and oil products. And they have considered how to survive in a shrinking market in Japan in recent years.

They face a great challenge to transition from conventional petroleum products due to decreasing demand. We predict that gasoline demand will continue to decrease due to the age of the society and the growth of fuel-efficient cars.

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Outside Japan, the situation is moving fast. The Japanese government is facing greater pressure to set ambitious 2030 greenhouse gas emissions targets and to lead global decarbonisation efforts.1 Each Japanese refining and petroleum company also needs to join this appeal and believe: “We will do this. We can do this.”

3. How are you working with Japanese refineries on energy transition initiatives?

My business activity with Japanese customers is based on the conventional refinery related to technology services. We are also trying to make Shell more vigilant in the petroleum industry.

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To support this goal, I became involved in two presentation opportunities for the Japanese Petroleum Institute (JPI), which is an academic organisation formed by petroleum-industry engineers and students. I was involved as a panelist in 2019 to discuss competitive residue upgrading options in response to IMO 2020.2 The following year, I arranged Shell’s participation in a webinar presentation to share how decarbonisation pathways applies to Japanese refiners and petrochemical companies.

We are also collaborating with the Refinery Integration for Group-Operation (RING), an industry association with major petrochemical and petroleum companies. We are working on how to improve the activity or synergy for each regional industrial complex.

The RING organisation visited Europe in 2019 and asked me to arrange an introduction session with the Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA) on technologies related to energy transition.

I am also working to introduce customers in our technical query portal to our Make Every Molecule Matter website so they can become more familiar with our energy transition offerings.

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4. How do you integrate learnings from customer sites in Japan with Shell Catalysts & Technologies at large, and vice versa?

In the past, I oversaw new applications for EPS for civil engineering and water purification systems. I organised a distribution network with more than a hundred of construction consultants, dealers and EPS block manufacturers in a few years. Using this network, I got a lot of well-known construction business including theme parks.

However, to get business in civil engineering, we needed to provide a technical proposal to construction consultants. Though Shell already had experience in EPS applications in civil engineering sites, the requirement conditions in Japan were different from Europe. It was difficult to apply our experiences directly.

In addition, all documents were required in Japanese and needed to satisfy government regulations. In order to expand our expertise for this industry, I asked for advice from our technical partners and learned the basics of civil engineering to bridge our experiences in Europe to Japanese-specific conditions.

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5. What are you most looking forward to?

I directly extended my scope of work in Japan to include helping Japanese refineries move to the new energy world. It is an exciting challenge. I also will continue my musical hobbies of singing in a choir and playing saxophone in a band.

1 Junko Horiuchi, “Japanese government under pressure to target deep emissions cut by 2030,” The Japan Times, 17 April 2021,
2 “IMO 2020 – cutting sulphur oxide emissions,” International Maritime Organization, accessed 14 May 2021, https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/Sulphur-2020.aspx.

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