Shell has made its first investment in blockchain, the technology eliciting interest around the world because it underpins bitcoin, but which has far wider applications.
The oil giant has taken a minority stake in London startup Applied Blockchain to help it explore how the technology might be applied to its business.
The value of the investment has not been disclosed but was made alongside Calibrate Partners, a fintech investment firm.
Applied Blockchain is based in the Canary Wharf-based Level39 fintech accelerator and is developing distributed ledger and smart contracts technology.
It is already working with Sita, a telecoms company for the world's biggest airlines, to create a distributed drone registry and fellow fintech startup Babb to build a bank on the blockchain.
It's not the first time Shell has experimented with blockchain, partnering with rival BP and others in the oil industry to create a blockchain energy trading platform.
"Blockchain applications have huge potential to shake up how we do things in the energy industry from streamlining process, to simplifying how we work with our suppliers and serve our customers," said Shell chief technology officer for IT Johan Krebbers.
"Investing in Applied Blockchain is part of our commitment to use digitalisation to create value in our core business and develop new business models.”
According to analysts at Deloitte, the application of blockchain in the oil and gas industry "presents a particular compelling opportunity". It identified cross-border payments, record management, supply chain management and smart contracts as potential applications.
"A secure system that mitigates risk , increases transparency, provides an audit trail, and speeds up transactions at a significantly reduced cost may be appealing to oil and gas companies," analysts said.