India and Shell: partners in the future of technology
Mar 31, 2017
Speech given by Harry Brekelmans, Projects & Technology Director at Shell, at the opening of the Shell Technology Centre Bangalore, in India on March 31, 2017.
Shell has three major technology hubs around the world, each with a proud history. In this speech, Harry Brekelmans sets out how Shell’s new state-of-the-art site, now opened in Bangalore, fits into that past. He also looks at its relevance to India today and casts forward to the promise it holds for the wider world… a world which is in urgent need of technology, innovation and the best of human ingenuity.
Honourable ministers, Excellencies, distinguished guests and colleagues.
This is a big day. And for today to fall so close to Yugadi, the new year holiday here, seems especially appropriate. I am told “Yugadi” translates as “the beginning of a new age”. Today certainly feels like that to me.
Bangalore is one of three Shell technology hubs worldwide. The first was founded in Amsterdam over 100 years ago. Houston opened 80 years ago. Bangalore started its first research activities just 10 years ago. And today we open this wonderful site: set in 52-acres, complete with state-of-the-art facilities and with the space to expand to 1,500 staff. It even has the world’s biggest Shell logo, over six metres tall – which says something about the scale of our ambitions in India.
I would like to set out for you how Shell Technology Centre Bangalore fits with over a century of Shell tradition… how it fits into India today… and how it is part of the future… not just for Shell and for India… but for the world.
We, at Shell, are proud of the work that has been done at our technology centres. It has helped change the face of the energy industry. To give just three, quick, examples. Breakthroughs in gas-to-liquids technology have allowed the development of cleaner-burning fuels… and provided a new way of creating essential chemicals without crude oil.
Secondly, advances in catalysts and manufacturing processes have dramatically increased the amount of useful chemicals that can be produced. These innovations have taken us to the point now that 90% of every barrel of oil or its equivalent can be turned into essential products that the world needs. Things like plastics, detergents and fabrics.
As a third, and final, example… 100 years’ worth of research on bitumen has resulted in roads that last longer and drain water better. That means safer roads for everybody who uses them.
And already Bangalore has added to that record of success.
The bright minds of Bangalore have helped engineer some of the many fine details of our Prelude floating liquefied natural gas facility… the largest floating offshore facility in the world. The advanced computational work done at this site is making Shell’s rigs and facilities safer than they have ever been.
By modelling, for example, how the Malikai platform near Malaysia would perform in the fast-flowing currents of the South China Sea. By looking at what would happen if it was hit by an extreme wave 25 metres-high. Our staff in Bangalore have made sure our staff out at sea are safe.
And as just one more example… you may not realise this, but a quarter of all India’s refining capacity is kept running in optimal condition through the advice of Shell engineers based here, in Bangalore.
All that work and success at Amsterdam… at Houston… and here in Bangalore… is the foundation of this wonderful site, a site dedicated to the future.
As I said at the start, this site fits well with Shell’s history. It also fits with India today… a country with its eyes firmly fixed on the future.
Power of collaboration
We would not be here together at all without the deep collaboration we have enjoyed with the government of India and the state government here in Karnataka.
Without the right policies, the land and the permits there would be no new Shell technology site here.
We owe real thanks to all who worked on the project. That includes those who actually built it – they did a beautiful job and they did it safely. The number of recordable incidents during construction was so low that it would be considered an exceptionally safe site to have worked at… for any industry… in any part of the world.
Due to all that work, Shell Technology Centre Bangalore now stands as a concrete example – a concrete, glass and steel example – of the power of collaboration. It is also Shell’s statement of faith in the continuation of that collaboration… in the talent India has to offer… and in the future of its people.
Future of India
I am lucky enough to have a special responsibility for Shell’s operations in India so I have had the privilege of coming to the country many times. There are so many talented people in India who I could name... this could be a long speech! But let me tell you about just two people who share Shell’s faith in the future of India.
Let me tell you first about Shauvik De. Shauvik grew up in Kolkata and then moved to Mumbai to study for a masters in chemical engineering. He had come in the top 30 in a nationwide exam of undergraduates.
Almost four years ago, he joined the PhD-75 scholarship programme, set up by Shell and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Along with dozens of others of Indian citizens, all with dazzling intellect, he travelled to the Netherlands to take a PhD.
Shauvik is now on the brink of getting his PhD and I very much hope that the next time I visit this site, Dr Shauvik De will be here.
PhD-75 scholars like him could be working on improving oil and gas exploration and recovery… they could be developing new algorithms to improve smart grids… they could be coming up with new concepts in battery technologies. All of this, is work that needs doing… and it needs the brightest minds India has to offer.
I also want to tell you about Manoj Kumar. Manoj works at Shell’s Yeshwantpur Retail Station, here in Bangalore. He is what we call a service champion… on the front line for the company, delivering the quality of service that sets Shell apart.
Manoj is known for his excellent attitude to safety, his hard work and his warm smile… as well as his wicked ability to mimic colleagues. The fact that he cannot hear and he cannot speak makes absolutely no difference to his ability to help our customers… or to be a brilliant employee. He has been working for Shell for over nine years now.
It is staff like Manoj – one of around 200 with a disability who work at Shell service stations in India – that are essential to the company’s ambitions. But to give you an idea of those ambitions… Shell currently has 84 service stations in this country and a third of those are in Bangalore.
We now have plans to establish a network of stations in the west and south of the country which we hope will grow to number 1,500 sites over 10 years. That’s a new Shell service station springing up at a rate of almost one every fortnight… every one of them offering great service as well as great food and drink. Without staff like Manjoj, an ambition like that would be so much harder to realise.
Ultimately, it is people like these, at all levels of society, that will drive progress… in India… and beyond India.
I have told you how Shell Technology Centre Bangalore fits into the past… and the present. I also promised to explain how it fits into the future.
I said this place is concrete example of collaboration… and it is already very impressive. But it is the future for that partnership – between Shell, India and its people – that is most inspiring.
Shell’s purpose is to create more, and cleaner, energy for the world. Is there any place on the planet that understands the importance of that mission better than India?
All of us here know that the world has before it… both the opportunity… and the challenge presented by the global energy transition. There are some powerful forces at work.
We can expect the world’s population to grow. There are currently over 7 billion people on the planet and the UN expects there to be 11.2 billion by the end of the century. We can expect all those people to seek to improve their living standards… and all of that will involve the consumption of energy.
Those two factors alone make it likely that the energy transition will take place within an energy system that is doubling in size. All of this means that the world is going to have to meet much more demand for energy at the same time as it has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The need for innovation, of the sort we can expect to come from the staff at this site, is clear.
The projected rise in India’s population – another 300 million people by 2050 – is matched by the scale of the country’s ambition. The push for “Power for All” on the one hand and the plan for a four-fold growth in renewable power by 2022 on the other are the energy transition in action… here and now.
This country’s target to increase the share of natural gas in primary energy from 6% today to 15% in four years is also part of that transition.
The fact that gas creates half the CO2 of coal, and a tenth of the air pollution, when burnt for power means it can make a valuable contribution to restraining emissions in a growing energy system as well as addressing air quality issues.
Natural gas power stations can also ramp up or down quickly. This makes them excellent partners to a system which includes an increasing share of intermittent renewable power generation.
Liquefied natural gas also has much potential as a lower-carbon transport fuel. Shell’s Hazira liquefied natural gas facility in Surat is an important part of the company’s presence in India and a significant piece of energy infrastructure.
Shell has a long history of investment in India and a long-standing commitment to helping the country meet its energy needs. That commitment continues.
Three days ago I was in New Delhi for the launch of India 2022. This is a business-led coalition for growth designed to bring together organisations committed to aligning with the Government of India’s development goals.
The coalition will focus on boosting skills, energy, connectivity, health and rural growth. We are collectively determined to make progress. We know that access to energy changes lives.
Shell and India are already walking in step. We are already heading in the same direction.
This technology centre has sprung from a proud past… been established in an India full of opportunity… and, I feel confident, will form part of a brighter future for many.
The work at this site will provide energy solutions. Not just for India, not just for Asia… but for the wider world.
To give a single example… the staff at this site are working on a new technology that can turn normal garbage directly into biofuel that you can pour into a car. There have been around 30 inventions connected to this process, called IH2, that are making their way through the patent process now.
And we are building a demonstration project here in Bangalore to show it in action. IH2 is not just a process that could benefit India, it is one that could help the world. That’s what can happen when you bring the right people together in a city that buzzes with innovation.
The hard work here could make IH2 a commercial reality within a few years. It is the potential for advances like IH2 which makes me feel that, today, we really could see the beginning of a new age.
I would like to close with some thanks. Thanks to all of you: for your contribution to making today happen… for being here today and sharing the celebration of this wonderful new site… and for everything I know we will achieve together.
Today is a big day. But, in time, I believe we will look back at it as a great day.
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