Shell Oil Company President Marvin E. Odum spoke about the future of his company and the energy industry to a packed audience in Science Center D yesterday.
The increasing global demand for energy, the volatility of energy price, and the stress of environmental problems pose a significant threat to traditional energy practices such as oil production, Odum said.
But according to Odum, there is no reason why the traditional energy industries should not focus on changing the present systems of energy supply.
Odum highlighted several possible roles that the oil and gas sectors might play in reshaping the energy industry—improving affordability, increasing efficiency, and developing low-emissions energy forms.
"I don’t obviously speak for the whole oil and gas industry, but I think the sector has two, or three actually, important roles to play," Odum said.
According to Odum, one of Shell’s goals is to make energy safer and more affordable. Another is to increase the efficiency of the company’s operations, though Odum noted that as an individual company such improvements in efficiency do not make much difference in the whole global system. A third major role for his company, Odum said, was developing low-carbon energy, such as natural gas and sustainable bio-fuels.
In 1997, alongside several other countries’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Shell set a target for reducing their own CO2 emissions by five percent from their 1990 levels by 2010. As of 2009, Shell Oil has reduced its total emissions by 35 percent, according to Odum.
While Shell is still called an oil company, Odum said that in 2012 more than 50 percent of the company’s product will be natural gas.
James I. Clem, managing director of the Harvard Center for the Environment, said that the Center invited Odum as part of a lecture series on the future of energy aimed at providing different perspectives from representatives from throughout the energy industry.
Clem said that "at least in the near term," oil will remain a major source of energy.
Michael J. Graham ’10 said he attended the event because he was looking into a career in the energy sector.
"This is, you know, a very important person, obviously one of the higher-ups in Shell Oil," Graham said. "I was just interested in what he has to say."