Research and development
Innovation and advanced technologies play a crucial role in the energy transition. Our research and development (R&D) activities aim to address the need for more energy while reducing the environmental impact.
We have programmes, partners and funding methods to help us develop new technologies. Shell has research partnerships with leading universities and research institutes including Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, Imperial College in the UK and Tsinghua University in China.
Our three main programmes that support future energy technology development are Shell GameChanger, Shell Technology Ventures (STV) and Shell TechWorks. Shell GameChanger nurtures radical, unproven ideas that have the potential to influence the energy future. STV, our corporate ventures arm, invests in companies and technologies that are likely to accelerate the development and deployment of innovations in the energy sector. Shell TechWorks is an open innovation programme that connects entrepreneurs and technology start-ups from other sectors to apply different technologies to the energy sector.
Low-carbon energy investment
Over the past six years, we have invested about $1.1 billion in low-carbon R&D. We support the development and implementation of new energy technologies by investing in companies and technologies that are complementary to Shell’s existing business.
Through STV, we invest across the full scope of alternative energy: in production, we invested in GlassPoint solar technology (see Solar and wind technologies); in energy distribution, we invested in Next Step Living, a company that helps homeowners improve energy efficiency and use more renewable energy; in energy storage, we invested in Aquion Energy, a company that produces saltwater ion batteries that can store solar power for use at night for industrial purposes.
Other areas of low-carbon investment include supporting the global Carbon XPRIZE in the area of carbon capture and use. In Canada, Shell and nine members of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance are funding an XPRIZE to foster ideas to find alternative uses for captured carbon dioxide.
As part of our low-carbon investment portfolio, we are also researching new transport solutions including hydrogen technologies, energy storage for electric vehicles (see Energy-efficient transport) and advanced biofuels (see Biofuels).
Stages of low-carbon investment
Our investment in low-carbon R&D can be categorised into six areas. (See diagram). We try and test many new technologies, often working in partnership with others. If the technology development shows commercial viability at the R&D stage, we will continue to invest in it.
For example, over a number of years, we have conducted seven advanced biofuel trials to test new biofuels made from plant and crop waste. Today, we have three demonstration plants where we evaluate cellulosic ethanol and manufacturing processes in which advanced biofuels are added to existing fuels.