Shell Scales Back Low-Carbon Solutions

Aaron Foyer
Shell EV charger
Courtesy of CNBC

When it comes to their carbon future, supermajors are under the public microscope like they’re a Ms. Frizzle amoeba experiment. So all eyes were on Shell this week after it decided to job cuts in a low-carbon group. More than anything, it helps illuminate the status of some key low-carbon technologies.

Background: Last week, Shell CEO Wael Swan announced the company was altering its net-zero pathway. The company’s goal remains to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, but exactly how the company will achieve that had apparently shifted.

This week, Swan revealed some of the details behind that change by eliminating some roles in a key group.

The details: The job cuts will take place in the company’s Low-carbon Solutions (LCS) division, which develops future energy sources. The announcement will impact 330 of the groups full 1,300 jobs.

The insight: Shell’s announcement is less “oil company hates change” and more a report card on the status of many clean energy technologies. The cuts will come almost exclusively from the LCS division’s hydrogen light-duty mobility efforts.

  • In the announcement, the company explained that it viewed electric vehicles being the preferred customer solution for light-duty transport, reducing the need for a hydrogen alternative.

What wasn’t cut: Equally telling was that the move will not affect other key technologies in the group, including carbon capture and storage, hydrogen for heavy transport and industry, and nature-based solutions. This move hints at company’s view on the potential and feasibility of these solutions.

Zoom out: Oil companies have come under intense scrutiny with every decision to alter their net-zero pathways. Last month, the company came under pressure after two employees released a letter urging the company not to shift from renewables (this move won’t affect the renewables division).

As technologies advance, expect more companies to focus their efforts solutions that will work at scale.