In a presentation at RCGI, company executive listed the transition challenges and reaffirmed the crucial role of the CCS for reducing emissions

During his lecture on Powering Progress Together: an industry perspective on energy, innovation and collaboration, Rob Littel, Shell’s General Manager Gas Separation, stated that 13% of the reduction of emissions required in the climate agreements signed worldwide must come from CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage). “We believe that CCS is crucial for a world without emissions. And technology plays a critical role in that process, since its development accelerates the commercial viability of the solutions. Without CCS, the cost of reducing emissions is very high,” Little said.

The event was organized by the Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) and by Shell in the auditorium of Mechanical and Naval Engineering of USP’s Polytechnic School, in São Paulo, which was also attended n Alexandre Breda and Camila Brandão (Shell), as well as several members of the RCGI staff, including Professors Julio Meneghini, Cláudio Oller, Guenther Krieger, Rita Maria Alves, Celma de Oliveira Ribeiro (Poli/USP), Edmilson Moutinho, Hirdan Costa, Suani Coelho (IEE), and Luís Venturi (FFLCH).

Rob Littel, Camila Brandão, Alexandre Breda, Julio Meneghini and Bruno Carmo

In his presentation, Littel gave special attention to carbon storage by absorption, in solid absorbents. “We are developing this in partnership with academe. The RCGI also has projects of this nature. We expect to be able to put this technique in practice in a few years.”

At the beginning, Littel gave a brief history of Shell’s R&D area, pointing out the current location of the company’s main R&D centers. According to him, the company invests US$1 billion per year in these activities. “Several decades ago, we went through the transition from coal to oil and natural gas. Shell was very successful in that process, but we are paying close attention to this other transition, which is occurring now. And we are well into it,” he said.

Júlio Meneghini, Scientific Director of the RCGI, feels that this is an auspicious moment for new researchers. “Presentations like this one give students a true dimension that the energy transition is a phase in which they can take part. It is motivating, inspiring for those who are starting now.”

Challenges – However, there are many challenges in the energy transition. They include the increased population of the world and, consequently, the demand for energy and the efficiency of the energy industry. “One small example: in order to make a smartphone, about 81 kg of CO2 are emitted. One billion smartphones represent nearly twice the emissions of São Paulo, today,” Littel compared.

According to him, in the energy transition process there should not exist the need to choose this or that energy source, and that it is necessary to know how to choose different types of energy for different purposes. “Oil and natural gas, wind, solar, biofuels, hydrogen: we need all of them and they all must be sustainable.” He pointed out that the ethanol produced in Brazil still has as high carbon footprint and that if the country could reduce it, it would hold an immense distinctive difference.

Scenarios – Littel showed some of the future scenarios that Shell has drawn up for the transportation sector (which now represents about 20% of the Earth’s emissions) in the context of a world that needs to reduce GHG emissions. “This is not a case of predicting the future, but rather of helping shape our view of the future.”

According to some of those scenarios, hydrogen could come to play an important role in aviation and for heavy cargo vehicles (trucks). Electricity will also play a much greater role in transportation (passenger vehicles) and wind energy could perform a relevant function in cargo transportation by ships. “This is a zero emissions scenario in the transportation sector, for the year 2100. And, even in the most drastic emissions reducing scenarios, we see that the hydrocarbons still have their role to play.”

He also stressed that Shell has projects involving hydrogen in such countries as Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. And that the company is looking at all the existing technologies for mitigating emissions. “We are very open to new technologies, such as membrane filtering, cryogenic separation, and so on. All of this is of interest to us. As time goes by, we will know what can be more or less feasible and to what extent.”


Photos of the lecture with Rob Littel