How I Make Every Molecule Matter: Andrew Broderick

How I am working toward decarbonisation on a global scale

Andrew discusses how different countries approach decarbonisation, the role of energy efficiency in limiting harmful emissions and challenges facing organisations.

By Andrew Brodrick, Global Manager, Technology Services Amsterdam, Shell on Sep 6, 2022

Andrew Brodrick is Global Manager, Technology Services, Amsterdam at Shell Catalysts & Technologies. He has worked at Shell for about 37 years in various capacities covering different regions of the world including Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.

In this interview on “How I Make Every Molecule Matter”, Andrew discusses challenges facing organisations, how different countries approach decarbonisation and the role of energy efficiency in limiting harmful emissions.

1. What excites you about coming to work every day?

Every day, I have a new puzzle to solve. It is quite fun. A large part of what brings me back every day is the ability to create better solutions and improvements in a team setting.

A whole host of people need to be part of creating those solutions. I feel motivated when people get excited about a problem and collectively say, “Yeah, that is what we can do to solve the problem.” Finding something we, as a team, can improve and make happen is what keeps me going.

2. What are the three biggest challenges for organisations when it comes to decarbonisation?

Coordination

The first challenge is coordination. Certain things must happen at certain times. For instance, organisations must coordinate between business needs and technology development, while taking into account the market and regulatory frameworks.

Time

The second challenge is the time needed to develop technologies that neutralize global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of energy production. That is critical when you consider the urgency with which organisations are tackling decarbonisation. This type of accelerated innovation is like that of World War II when technology and industry advanced considerably because of the urgency of the war. Similarly, developments happen more quickly than people anticipate because innovators put so much drive and creativity into technology development. A problem might seem complicated now, but I firmly believe it will be solved over time.

Collaboration

The third challenge is the need for governments and industries to collaborate in a new way. For instance, South Korea and Japan have a major industrial impact on the world. These countries import their fuel, and to decarbonise, they will need to export their CO2 because the countries currently do not have the means to do so.

The question then becomes where will the CO2 go? There is a need for government-to-government agreements around CO2 movement storage. Those arrangements are difficult to make because governments have many domestic parties to consider. Without compromises around areas such as infrastructure development and change, it will be difficult for next-generation technical and business solutions to come into place.

In the future, it will be interesting to see how developments in technology and infrastructure, as well as government relations, will impact future needs.

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3. In your experience, how are individual countries addressing decarbonisation?

There is a difference between superficial statements and the ability to act. There is a contrast between how society solves today’s pressing problems and where society needs to be in the future. That is the big regional difference of priorities and pace. I believe governments will have a key role to take the lead and foster collaboration between different parts of society, individuals and industry. I see this already in the U.K. and Northwest Europe.

In the short term, when one considers individual economic realities, those realities will drive differences in pace, and societies need the differences and pace. The world can’t change overnight, so societies need that balance between what we can do now and what we can do tomorrow.

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4. What tools and strategies are you focused on to help customers reach their decarbonisation goals?

Ultimately, customers will achieve their decarbonisation goals by a mix of implementing new technologies and adopting lower (and zero) carbon energy.

It is not easy when one talks about decarbonising, for instance, a heavy industrial plant that uses a lot of energy and fuel, or where CO2 production is an inherent by-product of their process technology. The challenge in decarbonisation is applying multiple solutions – many of which are either under development or waiting for a business context that makes them viable.

So I will mention three approaches that we believe are important in helping our customers achieve their decarbonisation goals:

Energy efficiency and electrification solutions

Energy efficiency and electrification will always be part of the solution, and for many customers, this is a good place to start and make progress. For instance, better energy efficiency yields lower emissions between 10-20% depending on factors such as industry type, location and age of the facilities. Better energy efficiency can be cash positive and can be realised most rapidly: in three-, five- or eight-years’ time.

In the past companies could not justify the investment or the time and effort in energy savings. However, decarbonisation radically changes the equation by including more factors than direct energy cost such as the price of CO2 in carbon trading or dealing with penalties on quantified emissions. And of course, there are other values and strategies that individual companies choose to consider.

Decarbonisation consultancy

Consultancy is used to help our customers identify, agree and adopt the tactics that they will use in their specific decarbonisation journey. We help customers navigate through complex, evolving technology possibilities and energy options. Additionally, we help customers understand and manage the developing societal landscape by applying consultancy and systems thinking in a holistic approach. Ultimately, we aim to help the customer become confident to make the decisions that lead to committing resources to implement their decarbonisation tactics in this emerging context.

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Digital solutions

I believe digital solutions provide new capabilities and better practices and, at the same time, enable value. At Shell, our people use digital sciences to create new ways of solving problems and improving efficiencies in our front-line operations. When replicated, and deployed in multiple locations, these solutions become state-of-the-art tools.

“Digital” refers both to using big-data with artificial intelligence, and to solutions enabled by developing enhanced software-type applications and modelling. For instance, consider a steel plant or cement manufacturing. A combination of various energy options, manufacturing routes and carbon capture need to be assessed. Through software application and modelling, we can scan options quickly and systematically while working with clients.

There is also new interest and ambition in some existing tools that work with real-time data to support decision-making. Examples include Carbon and Energy Management Information Systems and SMART application systems that look at complex heat recovery networks and have significant impact on the total site emissions.

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5. What advice would you give others when embarking on a decarbonisation project?

Be curious and ask questions. There's a lot of new information available every day. Try to think through the answers and gain new insights in the things you see. Ask questions like, “Can we do more? What obstacles constrain this? What needs to be in place to enable this to be achieved? How can we improve it?”

There is still so much to learn about decarbonisation, and information is constantly changing. There are a lot of answers out there that we didn't perceive as possible or as likely. That's going to continue to be the case. So, it is very much a learning exercise. Keep asking questions. Try to think beyond the answer. Challenge assumptions. These are the best ways to learn.

Stream the webinar: Decarbonisation solutions: Key insights into your decarbonisation journey