Oil supermajor Shell is facing some big changes in its future as stakeholders approve the long-talked-about move from the Netherlands to the U.K. This follows months of controversy over its scheduled North Sea Cambo oilfield project, resulting in Shell’s withdrawal from the development, and its huge drive to invest in renewables over the next decade. These are just a few of the major shifts in Shell’s energy strategy that suggest the company will undergo a substantial transition in the coming years.
Last week, 99.8 percent of Royal Dutch Shell stakeholders approved the company’s move to London, which it hopes will help simplify its dual tax structure and make it more competitive. This could lead to a transformation like that seen by Total’s name change to TotalEnergies earlier this year, as Shell drops the ‘Royal Dutch’ to become Shell PLC.
The move is likely linked to a legal case loss earlier in 2021 when a Dutch court ruled that Shell must decrease its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, in line with national aims to decarbonize the economy. Shell has already announced a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050 and aims to reduce its emissions by 45 percent by 2035, five years behind the ruling.
But Shell insists that the move will merely simplify its complicated dual-class share system, currently incorporated in the U.K. but with Dutch tax residence. Nick Stansbury, head of climate solutions at Legal and General Investment Management, a major Shell shareholder, explains, “We think this is actually a relatively routine bit of corporate simplification, a kind of corporate tidying up exercise to deal with a complex bit of historical legacy that is simply no longer needed in the world that Shell now lives and operates in.”
Shell stocks have dropped slightly since the announcement, from $44.14 on Friday 10th December to $42.83 the following Wednesday. However, uncertainty around the latest wave of Covid-19 infections and the worldwide implementation of greater restrictions have hit several oil and gas stocks hard in recent weeks. Shell believes the move will ultimately be positive for its stakeholders, as well as for its planned projects in both fossil fuels and renewables.
Shell’s Chair, Sir Andrew Mackenzie stated of the proposal last month, “The simplification will normalize our share structure under the tax and legal jurisdictions of a single country and make us more competitive. As a result, Shell will be better positioned to seize opportunities and play a leading role in the energy transition.”
The company has already promised major changes to its portfolio following the dip in oil and gas demand during the pandemic, as well as in response to international pressure to decarbonize operations. Much like other oil majors, Shell is doubling down on its investments in renewables, earmarking between $5 and $6 billion a year for green energy. Representatives have previously stated that oil production most likely peaked in 2019 and now is the time to get ahead of the game when it comes to alternative energy development.
Its objective is to sell around 560 terawatt-hours annually by 2030, twice its current electricity sales. Building upon its current hydrogen operations, Shell hopes to develop integrated hydrogen hubs to serve both industry and heavy-duty transportation, expecting to achieve a double-digit share of the world’s clean energy sales.
In the mid-term, Shell announced a $565 million investment for renewable energy projects in Brazil through 2025, earlier this year. Developments include largescale solar fields and a natural gas-fired thermal plant, which could start generating energy as early as 2022.
However, the oil major was repeatedly criticized this year for its ongoing interest in the development of the Cambo oilfield in the North Sea, particularly following the COP26 climate summit that took place in Glasgow this November. Until this December, Shell was pursuing the further exploration and development of Cambo, seemingly contradicting its pledge to move away from fossil fuels and decarbonize operations. But following mounting public pressure, Shell ultimately withdrew from the Cambo oilfield development last week, forcing Siccar Point Energy to put the project on hold.
Siccar Point’s CEO, Jonathan Roger, expressed disappointment in Shell’s decision to exit the project. He still believes that “Cambo is a robust project that can play an important part of the UK’s energy security, providing homegrown energy supply and reducing carbon-intensive imports, whilst supporting a just transition.”
So, the jury is out on how dedicated Shell is to reducing its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, as ruled in the Netherlands earlier this year, especially following its recent decision to move to the U.K. However, its recent withdrawal from Cambo, as well as a significant increase in its renewable energy investments over the last year, suggest that Shell is open to diversifying its portfolio, as it aims to get ahead of the competition in several green energy areas.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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