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The challenges of balancing environmental concerns with economic development

08th December 2015

Speaking at the opening of the International Petroleum Technology Conference in Doha, Ben van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell spoke of one of the biggest challenges the world faces; to boost economic development, while protecting the environment at the same time.

Ben van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell
Ben van Beurden, CEO, Royal Dutch Shell

“Climate change is a global challenge: we’ll all face the consequences of failing to tackle it,” van Beurden said. “Some parts of the Middle East, for example, could become hotter and drier than they already are. Other parts of the region, such as low-lying coastal areas here in Qatar, could suffer from rising sea levels. 

“Energy is at the heart of economic development and climate change. Firstly, the world needs more energy. According to the International Energy Agency’s most recent outlook, global energy demand is expected to double from 2000 to 2050. 

“Secondly, the world needs cleaner energy. It’s good that so many parties are meeting at the UN Climate Conference in Paris with the opportunity to take steps in the right direction. But more is needed to build policies and tools for addressing the climate challenge. And thirdly, the world needs affordable energy. Economic sustainability is as crucial as environmental sustainability. 

“Along with implementing the right policies such as government-led carbon pricing systems, boosting technology is critical to this endeavour. Shell follows two technology routes. The first route is to make use of hydrocarbons in a cleaner and more efficient way. By producing cleaner fuels, for example. Another example is capturing CO2 and storing it safely under the ground - known as Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS. The second route is to produce and distribute energy in potentially new ways. For example, we’re building our knowledge of hydrogen, of renewables like solar and biomass, and of ways to use and store heat and electricity. 

“Shell has many partnerships in the field of technology. An example of the first route is a pilot project in Petroleum Development Oman. A company called GlassPoint harnesses and concentrates sunlight to produce steam for enhanced oil recovery. Gas that would otherwise be used for oil recovery can now be used for petrochemicals, LNG export or generating power locally. 

“A second example of the first route is The Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre. This research centre is jointly funded by Qatar Petroleum and Shell, with additional support from the Qatar Science and Technology Park. Its aim is to expand research capacity in CCS and cleaner fossil fuels.

“An example of the second route is the use of hydrogen in road transport. In Germany, Shell is building a network of about 400 hydrogen refuelling sites – together with the German government, Daimler and others. This refuelling network could become a starting point for activities in more European countries.

“To reiterate: the world needs more energy, it needs cleaner energy, and it needs affordable energy. Technology is a crucial factor to achieving all this. That’s why Shell aspires to be the world’s most innovative energy company.”