Shell's Ben van Beurden: Carbon emissions will remain for "some time"

Lynsey Barber
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The boss of Shell spoke in Norway on Monday (Source: Getty)

The future of energy will be a "patchwork" of renewables and hydrocarbons meaning carbon emissions will remain for "some time", the boss of one of the world's biggest oil companies has said.

Shell chief Ben van Beurden said the energy industry had to be "the contrarian in the room" about how realistic the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will be in the coming decades in efforts to hit global climate goals.

Read more: Shell shares drop as it reports 72 per cent drop in earnings

"To fight climate change, the share of electricity will need to increase rapidly ― and all at a time when the energy system as a whole is growing. In other words, this century’s energy landscape will inevitably be a patchwork of renewables and hydrocarbons. Or, to put it differently, some level of emissions will remain for some time," said van Beurden, speaking at the Offshore Northern Seas conference on Monday.

​"I believe it is part of our industry’s role to underline this undeniable truth. It is part of our role to be the contrarian in the room. Not because we like it, but because realism is absolutely crucial to achieving an effective and efficient energy transition."

Shell reported a 72 per cent drop in earnings in its most recent quarter following its merger with BG Group and sustained lower oil prices across the industry.

Read more: Shell needs oil to rise to mid-$60s to make BG deal work

"Building on this realism, we need to offer practical solutions that will help shape the energy transition," he added, citing research that demand for energy is expected to grow by a quarter by 2035.

"Sun, wind and water will all contribute towards a lower emission future, however, the demand for hydrocarbons will remain in areas such as air travel and heavy industry, while the pace of change toward renewables will vary in different parts of the world.

"... even if we stretch the limits of today’s technologies, the world cannot yet live on renewables alone. Indeed, it will already be a major challenge for the share of renewables in the energy mix to grow sufficiently," said van Beurden.

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