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Shell Is Working on ‘Promising’ Renewable Technology, Voser Says

The following are excerpts from an interview with Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser at the company’s headquarters in The Hague.

Voser, who has headed Europe’s largest oil and gas producer since 2009, steps down at the end of the year, 31 years after first joining the company.

On Shell and renewable energy:

“It would be stupid from the oil and gas industry to say that renewables will not play a major role in the energy system of the next few decades.

‘‘Today’s investment levels into wind and into solar have a very rapid growth. Renewables will be developed.

‘‘We are investing heavily in R&D solutions at the moment, where we are looking at what part of wind and solar technology delivers a greener and cleaner energy form for the future.’’

‘‘Apart from biofuels it’s an R&D play, it’s in the hydrogen space and some other spaces.

‘‘We will develop a major technology play whatever it’s going to be over the next few decades. As Shell, we want to be part of the energy mix in the future.

‘‘We have some very promising things, which we are developing either through pilot projects already or through seed monies into venture capitalist companies.’’

On Shell’s relationship with China:

‘‘We have global relationships with Cnooc and CNPC, and in China also with Sinopec.’’

Cooperation ‘‘has developed very nicely in many countries in the world and also in China.

‘‘We have already a material business’’ in China producing more than 60,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. ‘‘We have significant chemicals investments, we have a significant retail investments, we are one of the biggest lubricants players, bitumen players in China. We are really growing very nicely into a big business in China.

‘‘If you take China as a destination country, where you build across the world to get your energy in, this is going to be an enormous business for us. That’s the way I look at China.’’

On OPEC:

‘‘They will remain a significant supplier to the energy demand in the world. They will clearly play the role they have played in the last few decades. I do like OPEC as a very responsible energy provider.

‘‘From time to time we underestimate how much they are interested in keeping energy prices affordable and with low volatility.

‘‘But when you’ve got crisis situations like we had with Libya, like we had with Syria, like we have with Tehran, the world normally looks towards OPEC to be actually a responsible producer.

‘‘They were very, very fast in providing more supply when the time was getting critical.’’

On Shell’s interest in East Africa after dropping a bid for Cove Energy Plc last year:

‘‘We have good exploration prospects, we have switched into exploration-led strategy in East Africa.

‘‘I have no regrets of walking away’’ from Cove. ‘‘I don’t feel that we missed out on East Africa. We are quite long in this stage anyway.

‘‘ In any new province and a therefore a new country there is always a steep learning curve’’ for companies and governments.

‘‘This will need a lot of development. It’s a managed risk.’’

On investing in projects versus returning cash to shareholders:

‘‘The tension will always be there and that’s the right tension. But it doesn’t mean that we always give in.

‘‘We have learned it the hard way over the last 20 years. We slowed down in the late 1990s quite considerably and this actually was one of our biggest regrets strategically, because it took us 10 years to recover

‘‘Over time when we deliver, the shareholders will be with us reaping the benefit.’’

On plans to dispose of assets:

‘‘At the moment the pipeline which we have is richer than we can do. We will have to make choices. The right projects will come through.

‘‘We then can start to monetize opportunities or other assets, which we have. We are entering into a divestment phase like we had a few years ago. For three years we sold every year $7 billion.

‘‘The net capital spending is considerably going to come down in 2014. We know exactly what we are going to do.

‘‘It will have both upstream and downstream. We are particularly rich on upstream options. That will also drive the divestment policy, because we make our choices.’’

The downstream ‘‘portfolio will be under analysis given the very strong headwinds. For the shorter term I am quite pessimistic’’ on the refining outlook.

‘‘I don’t want to set these things for my successor. We have been in the low part of divestments this year and it was deliberately so.’’

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at egismatullin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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