How Shell Oil Sees The Future Of Energy And Vehicle Fuels In 2050

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It's always good to understand how the huge global energy industry views the worlds of today and tomorrow.

At last month's Shell Eco-Marathon fuel-efficiency competition, sponsor Shell Oil provided seminars for attending journalists to explain how the company views the energy landscape from now through 2050.

DON'T MISS: Shell Eco Marathon: Why Odd Cars Built By Students Matter

If there was a bottom line, it would have been that we will add a variety of additional fuels and energy-storage modes to the present gasoline and diesel liquid hydrocarbons.

And that evolution will require a great deal of collaboration among energy companies, vehicle makers, governments, and other bodies.

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

From seven presentations over two hours and almost 80 Powerpoint slides, several key points emerged:

  • Global energy demand will continue to increase through 2050, potentially doubling from the level consumed in 2000
  • Carbon dioxide emissions "must be half today's [level] to avoid serious climate change"
  • Renewables "could supply up to 30 percent of the world's energy" in 2050
  • In 2050, coal will still provide three times as much total energy as solar; the global proportion of wind energy will be far smaller yet
  • Natural gas will play an increasing role in electricity generation

MORE: As Solar Installations Soar, Utilities Confront Distributed Renewable Power

  • It will also become more important as a vehicle fuel, both in liquid natural gas (LNG) form for commercial vehicles and as a feedstock for synthesized motor fuels
  • Liquid fuels are the sole alternative that can be used by every form of transport: city cars, long-distance cars, light and heavy trucks, rail, ships, and aircraft
  • Natural gas (in compressed form or as liquid petroleum gas) can be used for city and long-distance cars and light trucks
  • Hydrogen, too, can be used for city and long-distance cars and light trucks
  • But the H2 Mobility Hydrogen initiative in Germany shows that building a hydrogen-fueling infrastructure requires collaboration among many parties
  • Those include automakers, Federal and local governments, transnational bodies like the EU, other funders, and third-party suppliers
  • Electric cars are suitable for city use; for long-distance travel and in light trucks, they can be used "only with major restrictions"
  • To conserve fuel, all vehicles must get much lighter, more efficient, and in some cases smaller

ALSO SEE: Big Oil To 'Lose Control Of Auto Industry': Energy Conference

Whether or not electric utilities may see their century-old business model eroded by the steady advance of distributed renewable power was not addressed in the largely global overviews provided by Shell.

That is a topic much discussed among U.S. renewable-energy advocates.

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

But it's also fundamentally a first-world issue, especially in North America where thousands of different utilities provide electricity in a patchwork quilt of suppliers and grids.

Shell focused heavily on the growing role of natural gas for such utilities, noting that, "Replacing coal with gas for electricity generation is the cheapest and fastest way to meet CO2 reduction targets."

The company also suggested that among global energy providers, it has among the broadest footprints across the full energy value chain.

RELATED: When Will The Last Gasoline Car Be Built? 2070, Shell Oil Says (Oct 2013)

That becomes especially important, Shell said, in looking at its proposal to make liquified natural gas a transport fuel.

The company has leading positions in natural-gas exploration and production, marketing and trading, technology, liquefaction, storage, shipping, and pipelines.

It also briefly discussed biofuels, without saying a great deal about its activities in that field.

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Slide from 'The Future of Transport: Challenging Perceptions,' Shell Oil presentations, Apr 2015

Enlarge Photo

It did note that Shell supports research in the area, sells sugar cane-derived ethanol in Brazil, and feels that governmental support will be key to bringing biofuels into the global mix.

Shell provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.

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