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Shell eyes role for renewables alongside African oil & gas

Oil supermajor Shell is looking to integrate renewables into its operations across sub-Saharan Africa, a senior company official said.

Shell’s new business development manager for the region, Tayo Ariyo, urged the wider oil and gas industry to invest in renewables “as a means of providing access to energy in remote locations”.

“As an industry we must focus on developing lower carbon solutions, and we must rapidly invest in renewables, like solar, hydro and wind,” said Ariyo. “This will require the development of innovative new partnerships and business models that seamlessly integrate renewables into the energy mix.

“The sort of project we should be doing more of in Africa is what Shell currently has in Oman – a hybrid gas-solar project that Shell implemented in the Amal oilfield,” she said during a speech at International Petroleum Week in London.

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In 2012, Shell invested in GlassPoint Solar, a US company that uses solar-thermal technology to aid recovery of hard-to-extract oil deposits. GlassPoint’s thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) system is designed to produce the steam needed to help get at heavy oil that is too thick to be pumped to the surface using conventional techniques.

A 7MW pilot of the system was first deployed by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) at a site in the Middle Eastern sultanate. PDO later unveiled plans for the giant 1.02GW Miraah solar-thermal plant that was designed to aid oil extraction at the Amal field from 2017.

“Gas use was reduced by 80% in the oilfield activity, which means we could use what we saved somewhere else,” said Ariyo.

Now Shell is eyeing similar projects to power up its African oil projects, although Ariyo gave no details about where and when this technology could be implemented.

She said: “Gas and renewables is the ideal partnership to address the challenge brought on by increased energy demand. In order to have success, we need new trusted partnerships between governments and industry in order to ensure access to energy is a reality for Africans in Africa.”   

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“Therefore, as an industry, we need to continue to make substantial investments across all sectors, including oil and gas, and renewables. But we will have to do all this while mitigating climate change issues,” she said. 

Shell – which is also currently active in the offshore wind sector – is not the only oil supermajor to increasingly consider clean energy projects. Most of its oil rivals have acknowledged that the energy picture is changing, as recent energy outlooks have boosted the forecast for renewables in the long term.

BP claims to own the largest renewables business of any major international oil and gas company, but the company has not brought a new wind farm online since 2012.

However, the oil giant is reportedly considering repowering up to 400MW of its 2.3GW of operating US wind capacity to take full advantage of the production tax credit.

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