Royal Dutch/Shell Group is determined to retain a leadership role in the expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) business, and has set a mark to double its global LNG sales by the end of the decade, the company’s CEO said last week.

In a speech to the European Leadership Forum in Paris last Monday, Jeroen van der Veer said Shell is committed to investing in new supply projects, including the major Sakhalin project on Russian’s Pacific coast, and then linking the LNG to markets by developing import terminals and securing sales.

“I intend to make Shell a different company — less complicated, more competitive and more focused on results,” said van der Veer.

Besides an expanded LNG trade, the oil major also plans to make “significant investments” to reshape its portfolio by “selling $10-to-$12 billion worth of underperforming and non-strategic assets by 2006. And, when the right assets are available at the right price, we may also make focused acquisitions.”

The global economy is growing faster now than it has for two decades, and van der Veer said his company has to concentrate on the expanding global fuel demands.

“Gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel, mainly for power generation,” he said. “This is good. Using more gas in efficient combined-cycle turbines is important for reducing growth in greenhouse emissions. But perhaps three times as much gas as now will have to be delivered across borders, through dedicated delivery chains. Half will be transported as liquefied natural gas.”

The CEO said growing energy consumption requires that companies be able to “undertake increasingly complex and technologically demanding projects: finding and developing resources in harsher conditions, in more difficult geology, and further from market.”

Another part of the energy challenge will be to meet the world’s energy needs “without imperiling our environment and quality of life.” That challenge offers no easy solutions, said van der Veer.

“Much is being done — a ferment of advances in engine and fuel technologies.” Shell is working on many areas, he said, including the potential of hydrogen, and said there is a role for Shell in creating high quality fuel from natural gas.

“We have been working on gas-to-liquids (GTL) for three decades,” he said, to improve the technology, gain experience with a pioneering plant in Malaysia and to develop markets with auto manufacturers. “Now we plan to spend around $6 billion on a major GTL plant in Qatar.” The same technology, he said, “could be used to produce cleaner fuels from coal and biomass. We are already pursuing the potential for coal-to-liquids, in conjunction with coal gasification, in China.”

Another challenge is to “respond to the global threat from climate change,” said van der Veer. “Transforming the way we supply and use energy will take decades. But we can all use energy more efficiently — and, in our experience, make a return from doing so.”

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