Hui Shan

Job Steward at NrgEdge. If you are an Energy Professional (Oil, Gas, Energy) contact me for opportunities
Last Updated: November, 12 2018 02:01:25 AM
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Renewable Energy
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Due to shortage or limited availability of oil and gas, companies today are evaluating how they can harness alternative energy sources. The alternate fuel market is targeting hydro and thermal power plants, however solar and wind are catching up fast as preferred energy sources. There are still reservations about nuclear energy considering the risk of nuclear waste or manufacturing of nuclear weapons. However, strategies are shaping up to minimize the risk and maximize the profitability potential. Until then, sources such as solar and wind are being focused upon more and new sources like biofuels are explored extensively.

How will the shift towards alternate energy impact traditional oil and gas market?

There have been huge investments in the different alternate energy avenues by most of the big oil majors. These heavy investments on various alternate technologies by big oil majors and other oil companies around the world indicates a positive outlook towards the scope of clean fuel energy. However, the feasibility of its application is still questionable. Whether or not it will be able to meet the energy needs of the world while upholding its profitability is a question that is bothering the world.

Let us understand what the shift means for the companies in the energy sector.

Rate of employment

Among all renewable energy sources that have been studied, bio energy has been most influential. The fuel is created and transported within a confined space. The work is extremely labor-intensive and hence scope of employment increases. Hydropower and wind power will generate job opportunities during construction and project development phase. However, once the unit is commissioned only few operational staff will be required to perform the operational work. 

Enhanced cost-efficiency

Traditional energy is more expensive than renewable energy. If renewable energy can be produced on large scale, it can eliminate the gas shortage. Even other forms of renewable energy are much cheaper in comparison to traditional oil and gas sector. The cost benefits will be transferred to the consumers and they’ll be able save considerable amount on utility bills.

Improved Brand Image

It makes good business sense to make a move from traditional energy resources to renewable ones. The environmentalists have been arguing about the negative impacts of using and overusing the non-renewable source of energy. The shift towards alternate energy will boost the brand image of the traditional oil and gas company.

Higher market penetration and Mass access to energy 

Due to dependence on fossil fuels which are non-renewable sources and expensive, a significant number of people in the world have no access to power. A chunk of people in Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa area are still using traditional biomass for cooking. However, if the alternate energy can completely replace the traditional oil and gas then it will have a deeper penetration into the market and majority of people will have access to it.

Ethical Investment Avenue

Renewable sector is considered as an attractive and ethical investment avenue for the ones who wish to invest outside traditional channels and are futuristic in outlook. The rising investment on alternate energy is impacting the job creation and community cohesion, which is again a positive move.

How the alternate energy is transitioning the oil and gas?

Big oil companies and other oil companies are making practical, well-researched, and steady approach towards renewable energy spanning from solar panels to genetically engineered algae. However, there are still many companies which are in research/experimentation phase and do have a concrete plan in place.

The pathway to clean fuel technology that operates with efficiency and profitability is getting paved. More than 100 countries in developing as well as developed nations have set a clean fuel target and are working towards it. The European Union has set a goal to meet its 20% energy requirements via renewable sources by 2020.

The world has acknowledged climate change and are working together to shift from carbon-intensive to carbon-neutral environment which might pave the way for generations to come.

Renewable energy Energy sector Oil and Gas
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Royal Dutch Shell Poised To Become Just Shell

On 10 December 2021, if all goes to plan Royal Dutch Shell will become just Shell. The energy supermajor will move its headquarters from The Hague in The Netherlands to London, UK. At least three-quarters of the company’s shareholders must vote in favour of the change at the upcoming general meeting, which has been sold by Shell as a means of simplifying its corporate structure and better return value to shareholders, as well as be ‘better positioned to seize opportunities and play a leading role in the energy transition’. In doing so, it will no longer meet Dutch conditions for ‘royal’ designation, dropping a moniker that has defined the company through decades of evolution since 1907.

But why this and why now?

There is a complex web of reasons why, some internal and some external but the ultimate reason boils down to improving growth sustainability. Royal Dutch Shell was born through the merger of Shell Transport and Trading Company (based in the UK) and Royal Dutch (based in The Netherlands) in 1907, with both companies engaging in exploration activities ranging from seashells to crude oil. Unified across international borders, Royal Dutch Shell emerged as Europe’s answer to John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil empire, as the race to exploit oil (and later natural gas) reserves spilled out over the world. Along the way, Royal Dutch Shell chalked up a number of achievements including establishing the iconic Brent field in the North Sea to striking the first commercial oil in Nigeria. Unlike Standard Oil which was dissolved into 34 smaller companies in 1911, Royal Dutch Shell remained intact, operating as two entities until 2005, when they were finally combined in a dual-nationality structure: incorporated in the UK, but residing in the Netherlands. This managed to satisfy the national claims both countries make on the supermajor, second only to ExxonMobil in revenue and profits but proved to be costly to maintain. In 2020, fellow Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever also ditched its dual structure, opting to be based fully out of the City of London. In that sense, Shell is following the direction of the wind, as forces in its (soon to be former) home country turn sour.

There is a specific grievance that Royal Dutch Shell has with the Dutch government, the 15% dividend tax collected for Dutch-domiciled companies. It is the reason why Unilever abandoned Rotterdam and is now the reason why Shell is abandoning The Hague. And this point is particularly existentialist for Shell, since its share prices has been battered in recent years following the industry downturn since 2015, the global pandemic and being in the crosshairs of climate change activists as an emblem of why the world’s average temperatures are going haywire. The latter has already caused the largest Dutch state pension fund ABP to stop investing in fossil fuels, thereby divesting itself of Royal Dutch Shell. This was largely a symbolic move, but as religious figures will know, symbols themselves carry much power. To combat this, Shell has done two things. First, it has positioned itself to be at the forefront of energy transition, announcing ambitious emissions reductions plans in line with its European counterparts to become carbon neutral by 2050. Second, it is looking to bump up its dividend payouts after slashing them through the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating share buybacks to remain the bluest of blue-chip stocks. But then, earlier this year, a Dutch court ruled that Shell’s emissions targets were ‘not ambitious enough’, ordering a stricter aim within a tighter timeframe. And the 15% dividend tax remains – even though Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government has been attempting to scrap it, with (it is presumed) some lobbying from Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

As simplistic it is to think that Shell is leaving for London believes the citizens of the Netherlands has turned its back on the company, the ultimate reason was the dividend tax. Reportedly, CEO Ben van Buerden called up Mark Rutte on Sunday informing him of the planned move. Rutte’s reaction, it is said was of dismay. And he embarked on a last-ditch effort to persuade Royal Dutch Shell to change its mind, by immediately lobbying his government’s coalition partners to back an abolition of the dividend tax. The reaction was perhaps not what he expected, with left-wing and green parties calling Shell’s threat ‘blackmail’. With democracy drawing a line, Shell decided to walk; or at least present an exit plan endorsed by its Board to be voted by shareholders. Many in the Netherlands see Shell’s exit and the loss of the moniker Royal Dutch – as a blow to national pride, especially since the country has been basking in the glow of expanded reputation as a result of post-Brexit migration of financial activities to Amsterdam from London. The UK, on the other hand, sees Shell’s decision and Unilever’s – as an endorsement of the country’s post-Brexit potential.

The move, if passed and in its initial stages, will be mainly structural, transferring the tax residence of Shell to London. Just ten top executives including van Buerden and CFO Jessica Uhl will be making the move to London. Three major arms – Projects and Technology, Global Upstream and Integrated Gas and Renewable Energies – will remain in The Hague. As will Shell’s massive physical reach on Dutch soil: the huge integrated refinery in Pernis, the biofuels hub in Rotterdam, the country’s first offshore wind farm and the mammoth Porthos carbon capture project that will funnel emissions from Rotterdam to be stored in empty North Sea gas fields. And Shell’s troubles with activists will still continue. British climate change activists are as, if not more aggressive as their Dutch counterpart, this being the country where Extinction Rebellion was born. Perhaps more of a threat is activist investor Third Point, which recently acquired a chunk of Shell shares and has been advocating splitting the company into two – a legacy business for fossil fuels and a futures-focused business for renewables.

So Shell’s business remains, even though its address has changed. In the grand scheme of things, never mind the small matter of Dutch national pride – Royal Dutch Shell’s roadmap to remain an investment icon and a major driver of energy transition will continue in its current form. This is a quibble about money or rather, tax – that will have little to no impact on Shell’s operations or on its ambitions. Royal Dutch Shell is poised to become just Shell. Different name and a different house, but the same contents. Unless, of course, Queen Elizabeth II decides to provide royal assent, in which case, Shell might one day become Royal British Shell.

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