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Cook Resigns from Shell's Top Natural Gas Post

Royal Dutch Shell's top natural gas executive, Linda Cook, will step down June 1, the company said Tuesday without providing a reason.

Cook, the company's highest-ranking woman, has worked for Shell for 29 years, the last five of which she was executive director of Shell Gas and Power, Shell Trading, and Global Solutions and Technology.

"I am most grateful to Linda Cook for her many important contributions to the success of our company," said Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer. "Shell's LNG [liquefied natural gas] capacity has risen by over 60% in the last five years, with more to come."

A Shell spokesman told the Associated Press that Cook's departure results from "a mutual decision" and said more details might be available later. In some circles Cook had been mentioned as a potential successor to van der Veer, and she helped lead the company's increased focus on natural gas.

"Several years ago...we actually took a view that natural gas would become quite a preferred fuel globally and made some conscious decisions to increase, for example, the amount of exploration budgets we put toward gas projects compared to what we had been doing in the past," Cook said in March (see Daily GPI, March 18). "It's no surprise to us today that we are now close to 50-50 oil and gas in Shell. It was the result of conscious decision-making."

A major LNG player, Shell now finds itself in the midst of a global LNG glut during which more gas liquefaction projects will be coming on line through 2011 (see Daily GPI, May 18; April 30).

Cook's responsibilities included the company's renewable energy arm. Earlier this year she told reporters Shell was essentially dropping its pursuit of wind and solar energy development in favor of more spending on biofuels. "On wind and solar, they are of course interesting, but they continue to struggle to compete with the other investment opportunities we have in our portfolio, even with substantial subsidies in many markets," Cook said. "The outlook is we don't expect material amounts of new investment in those areas going forward."

While biofuels production more closely resembles the traditional activities of Shell and other major producers, some have said these companies are unwise to forsake renewable energies, even if their development doesn't mesh with current company skill sets (see Daily GPI, May 18). Biofuels is "a program that they feel they can do well and I get that, but I don't think it has the potential like some of these other things [wind and solar] do," Amy Myers Jaffe, the Baker Institute's Wallace S. Wilson fellow in energy studies at Houston's Rice University, told NGI recently. "And companies like Shell that have a gas and power business need to understand that they call their business gas and 'power,' and they need to focus on the power part of their business."

Last week Shell senior executives, including Cook, came under fire from shareholders for pay packages that were seen to be excessive (see Daily GPI, May 20).

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