Shell CEO Talks Shell Break Up at Web Summit

Shell CEO Talks Shell Break Up at Web Summit
Royal Dutch Shell plc chief executive officer Ben van Beurden was at the Web Summit conference in Portugal this week.

Why do you not break Shell apart and say we have a hydrocarbon business, and we have a clean business?

That was the question posed to Royal Dutch Shell plc chief executive officer Ben van Beurden during an on-stage interview at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday, which was attended by Rigzone.

“The energy transition is just that, it’s a transition, so you have to go from one to the other. You’re going to be in an uncomfortable place, where you are going from one to the other,” van Beurden said, responding to the question.

“We need the legacy business funds [for] this business of the future. If I need to build my hydrogen business just with the income from my current hydrogen business, it’s going to take me a century,” he added.

“We have to be able to fund that transition to the business of the future and if you think about the innovations that we are going to need to build this electrical, hydrogen, bio system for the world with carbon capture and storage nature solutions etc., it needs the interdependency of the component parts that currently make up Shell. To break it all apart, we’re not going to be able to make some huge transitions,” van Beurden went on to say.

When asked in the interview to explain his personal journey on the issue of climate change and when it “hit” him that “this was a catastrophe”, the Shell CEO said, “I think probably for me it was about 15-20 years ago, when climate change, yes, in the back of my mind came to the forefront”.

“When I was in the chemicals business in Shell, I realized this is one that is key for us to resolve. Working in chemicals, I saw the chemicals business as an enabler for that change and then leading downstream and now leading the entire company, I felt we need to be on the right side of history on this one,” van Beurden added.

“But not only that … it’s not just … our reputation and it’s survival and everything else, if you think about it, the energy transition is the single largest opportunity that my company has in its history and that’s why we need to go after it, not because it’s good for the world, because it’s also incidentally a good business opportunity,” the Shell CEO continued.

Late last month, Bloomberg reported that activist investor Dan Loeb’s Third Point Capital LLC said it had amassed a sizable stake in Shell and would push to break up the company.

To contact the author, email

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you, join the conversation on the Rigzone Energy Network.

The Rigzone Energy Network is a new social experience created for you and all energy professionals to Speak Up about our industry, share knowledge, connect with peers and industry insiders and engage in a professional community that will empower your career in energy.