Shell report shows decreasing role for oil

March 1, 2013 at 2:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. oil giant Shell in a new report said solar could eclipse oil to become the dominant energy source by 2060.

As part of its "New Lens Scenarios" forecast, Shell predicts that in the meantime, natural gas in 2030 "becomes the largest global primary energy source, ending a 70-year reign for oil."

In the forecast, Shell contrasts what it calls a "mountains" scenario, characterized by a stable, rigid, low growth with "oceans," a more dynamic global economy.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Thursday Peter Voser, chief executive officer of Shell, said both scenarios highlight "the need for business and government to find ways to collaborate, fostering policies that promote the development and use of cleaner energy and improve energy efficiency."

The release of the report follows Shell's announcement Wednesday that it would pause its arctic drilling program this summer.

Voser said Shell considers its U.S. arctic pursuit "a multiyear exploration program," with development potential in the second half of the next decade. Under such timelines, he said "we will take the time to do this right, in order to be the responsible operator in a multiyear exploration program."

In an apparent reference to its arctic drilling experience, Shell says in the report, "In the oil world, moderate prices put pressure on technically difficult and expensive frontier projects more common outside OPEC."

Under both scenarios, Shell predicts global emissions of carbon dioxide to drop to near zero by 2100.

In an interview with Canada's Financial Post, Jeremy Bentham, head of Shell's scenario team, indicated that the company expects the environmental movement to exert more influence in an ever-increasing connected world.

Last summer, Greenpeace conducted an online hoax to draw attention to Shell's push to drill in the U.S. arctic.

"Communications connectivity provides platforms for more voices and that can be used in a constructive or a destructive way," said Bentham. "Clearly, we would want to see it used in a constructive way -- these voices are important. But more voices mean more opportunities for opposition, but also herd-like opposition."

Bentham maintains that the age of oil "is not over." Yet in the scenario of slow growth, oil is likely to lose out to both coal and natural gas, particularly amid sluggish energy prices.

That, in turn, would lead to great advances in carbon capture and storage.

Bentham predicts OPEC countries to lose their influence in the medium term as non-OECD growth increases.

"However, if you look over time, given the wealth of resources in the major resource holders in OPEC, then you will see that the proportion of production that comes from OPEC will begin to grow again. But clearly, there are more challenges for OPEC in both scenarios."

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