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Shell CEO: Peak oil demand could arrive in late 2020s


The global demand for oil could peak as soon as the late 2020s as the world continues to rely more on natural gas and renewable energy sources, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said Thursday at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston.

Van Beurden acknowledged he disagrees with many of his energy CEO counterparts who contend oil demand will grow for several decades to come.

That’s partly why Shell said Thursday it’s divesting from most of its Canadian oil sands position by selling its acreage in an $8.5 billion deal to Canadian Natural Resources — $5.4 billion in cash and $3.1 billion in Canadian Natural shares. In a separate deal, Shell is paying $1.25 billion to Houston’s Marathon Oil to maintain a smaller oil sands stake.

Van Beurden said the world must dramatically reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to meet Paris climate accord goals. But he emphasized that doesn’t mean eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

“The largest contribution Shell can make to reducing emissions globally in the near term is to continue to grow the role of natural gas,” van Beurden said, noting that gas burns cleaner than crude and coal.

About half of Shell’s portfolio is now natural gas.

Shell also will continue to invest in wind, biofuel, hydropower and carbon capture projects, he said. But it will do so when and where it’s economically advantaged, admitting that Shell has in the past invested too early in renewables that couldn’t yet turn a profit. Van Beurden also argued that other industries must reduce carbon emissions; it cannot be left to the energy sector alone.

He said governments worldwide must do more to enact the right policies, including doing more to put a price, or tax, on carbon emissions. Such proposals have proven dead on arrival in the U.S. Congress.

Shell has supported carbon pricing since the late 1990s, he said. “We haven’t been very successful.”

“The world needs more energy,” van Beurden said. “But we also need to produce all that energy while emitting much less carbon dioxide. This is of course a key driver behind the energy transition.”

He called the effort a “multi-decade transition program,” noting it will also take decades to finally get all of the right policies in place with some countries moving much faster than others.

Shell isn’t done with oil either. Shell is continuing to invest more in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, as well as in Argentinian shale plays like the Vaca Muerta. He said Shell recently drilled the cheapest well in the Vaca Muerta yet using the assistance of a drilling team working remotely from Calgary in Canada.


86 Comments on "Shell CEO: Peak oil demand could arrive in late 2020s"

  1. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 8:43 am 

    And Shell Oil, umm make that Shell Renewable, intends to play a big role in reinventing itself:

    Royal Dutch Shell, that recognizes a pipe if it sees one, knows what energy is and also knows how to drill a hole, will effortlessly reinvent itself into a renewable energy company like offshore wind energy and geothermal.

    Forget about peak oil supply, Mother Nature will keep delivering; forget about the entropy juggling of the HillBilly Group; forget about “low-hanging fruit cake” Ricky Heinberg.

    Peak Oil Demand is the next big thing.

  2. Sissyfuss on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 9:27 am 

    Cloggasaurus, you are one big BAU dinosaur. You’re pushing cigarettes to someone with stage 4 lung cancer. As long as growth in human numbers continues, all things natural, aka life giving, will disappear. Something you should have done long ago, perhaps during the PETM.

  3. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 9:36 am 

    Cloggasaurus, you are one big BAU dinosaur. You’re pushing cigarettes to someone with stage 4 lung cancer.

    Not at all. I’m merely supporting the transition, away from fossil fuel, without knowing in advance how far we will get.

    Furthermore, I haven’t the faintest idea of what you stand for, other than producing sneers and passively undergo the suicide of your society. Probably you stand for nothing, safe bet.

  4. Sissyfuss on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 11:48 am 

    I am a Gaian, Bozo. A non-breeding tree-hugger that lives Walden style in the woods of spirit and biodiversity. I am nothing more than a witness to the witless. I refuse to ignore the carnage while at the same time protect my section of the Earth as best I am able. I am a dead man walking without a future, Raskolnikov of the 21st century. My belief system cannot stand against a 6th mass extinction so I abandoned it. I envy your projection of renewable success but reject it in toto. The masses demand hopium, give it to them if it assuages your ego. Mine is too deflated to care.

  5. Cloud9 on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 11:59 am 

    Isn’t peak demand another way of saying existing reserves are no longer economically viable? The arguments on this board remind me of the fable of the blind men examining an elephant. Each senses a bit of the puzzle, but consensus is difficult to reach.

  6. Boat on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 1:55 pm 


    When is oil going to peak. When is demand going to start dropping. Got any time frames?

  7. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:05 pm 

    Nobody knows, but the Shell bloke could very well be correct. In hindsight.

  8. Boat on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:21 pm 


    Electric vehicles will have cost reductions like wind and solar have had and then a few years to get to scale to get rid of 1.2-1.4 yearly oil demand. 2020 is simply not enough time. This Shell guy must be a PH.D. Like the boys in the hills group.

  9. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:25 pm 


    The title of the article says “late 2020s”.

    Shell and the HillBilly Group, these are very different leagues.

  10. Boat on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:40 pm 


    2029 could possible happen but a lot of tech breakthroughs would have to happen. A year or so ago I was guessing peak oil to be 2030 + – 5 years. My apology to the Shell guy.

  11. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:46 pm 

    Pictures from Belfast:

    The Irish Sea is also very suitable for offshore wind:

  12. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Mar 2017 2:50 pm 

    This once is huge, largest in the world:

    Pacific Orca Wind Farm Installation Vessel:

    Can carry 12 3.6 MW turbines.


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    Want to invest in the future? Steam driven machine shops. Start them as a novelty, love them as your economy becomes very local, very quickly.

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    Want to invest in the future? Steam driven machine shops. Start them as a novelty, love them as your economy becomes very local, very quickly.

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