By Nick Flinn and Andy Gosse on Oct 30, 2020
The unique challenges of 2020 have the potential to accelerate the global green economy. As public and private sectors across the world take action around decarbonisation, many questions remain about how the energy transition can be achieved.
Shell Catalysts & Technologies has expansive insights on energy transition challenges and solutions, based on our global reach and emphasis on innovative technology. On November 5, 2020, we will host a live webinar on “Making Every Molecule Matter Through the Energy Transition” with facilitator Darren Cross, VP of Marketing and Business Operations, and executive speakers:
- Nick Flinn, VP Technology Licensing and Services
- Andy Gosse, President, Shell Catalysts & Technologies
In this Q&A, Nick Flinn and Andy Gosse share insights about how a variety of industrial companies are transforming operations and why collaboration is key to navigate the changes ahead.
Q: What do you see as the greatest hurdles for the energy transition?
Change to the integrated energy system
Andy Gosse: One of the biggest challenges is the level of investment required from today’s energy producers to transition into a decarbonised energy system. Some energy switches could be relatively straightforward. There could be some level of investment, say, in biofuels, which is a drop-in replacement for some of the energy that people are currently using, and that transition can be relatively easy.
But when we look at a situation where an industrial company has switched from burning coal to burning hydrogen, that’s a big level of investment and change in infrastructure. This requires change not just within the companies themselves, but in their integrated role as part of the new energy system.
Nick Flinn: There is great uncertainty for most of our customers because the energy transition is not a well-defined pathway. They’re uncertain about what new energy vectors will be most effective for them, what the government policies will be and what skill sets they require of their people. This creates a situation where there are too many uncertainties, which makes it difficult to move forward.
They must focus on taking those first steps in order to progress. Shell Catalysts & Technologies has a role in that, from not only a technology angle, but also by helping our customers understand what their possible pathways are.
We don’t have all the answers, but we agglomerate the answers we gain from all of our customers and our understanding of the markets to present options for others to choose what is best for their particular circumstances.
Q: What are the first steps refiners or plant operators can take to start an energy transition journey?
Understanding the future markets they want to serve
Nick Flinn: Our customers need to think about where they want to be in 10 or 15 years’ time, in terms of what products they want to deliver and to what segments and markets. The sectors and segments that exist today may not exist in the future, or they may be very different. The pathways we present to them are all feasible, but some might be more financially viable depending on their location and the applicable government policies and regulations.
Optimising current operations and understanding their position within the broader energy system
Andy Gosse: Companies need to understand where they currently are and what options they have available. Energy efficiency optimisations offer immediate opportunities for carbon footprint reductions and energy savings.
The next thing they may consider is where their company is within the broader energy system, where they see their future customer base going and how they may transform their operations and end products.
It is also important for companies to consider their proximity to others that are on the same journey. In Europe, we are seeing situations where some companies’ waste streams could be value streams for others. For example, a steel producer that has a waste stream of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide could provide the stream to another company to develop a synthetic fuel project. It is critical for them to have a broader understanding beyond their own enterprise.
Q: Speaking of the larger picture, how does Shell Catalysts & Technologies fit into the energy transition conversation?
A long-time provider of innovative technologies
Nick Flinn: The energy transition and decarbonisation are the major problems that our customers are going to have to solve in the decades to come. Technology is central to the approach that we bring to solving the questions that matter.
We already have some early running technologies that are being considered by our customers to help them to achieve their ambitions to decarbonise, and we aim to continue working across different sectors and customer bases.
Global advisors to navigate changes ahead
Andy Gosse: Our mission has always been to create value for our customers, and we recognise that each customer is positioned within unique circumstances. As we see them gearing up for the challenges ahead, we want to help them navigate future changes.
We move from being not only technology providers, but to being their advisors. As we have a global footprint – talking to many different customers who are approaching their challenges in a variety of ways – it offers us the opportunity to apply this global perspective, and the Shell thought process, to each customer’s individualised energy transition approach.
Download the Make Every Molecule Matter executive summary to explore our energy transition philosophy
Q: What takeaways do you hope viewers will gain from your presentation?
Energy transition solutions require collaboration
Nick Flinn: We don’t have all the answers, but we hope to bring partners a selection of pathways that they can consider for the future. We have a global view on energy transition solutions, and while certain countries are moving quicker than others, a lot of countries will catch up quickly as well.
Learn from others’ ideas and projects
Andy Gosse: Those listening should take away the fact that they’re not on their own. There are quite a number of companies that are already making steps and considering new opportunities, and we will be offering viewers some of those stories.
The industry has an opportunity to be guided by other people’s ideas and projects, and then to marry that with their own unique circumstances. Learning from each other will create the best pathways for success, and I hope companies can thrive through the changes that are ahead of them.