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huibert vigeveno: India to be key destination for energy transition gear in 5 years, says Shell’s Huibert Vigeveno


India will become an important destination for sourcing energy transition equipment in five years, a top executive at energy giant Shell said, adding that the country will also have the highest number of Shell employees anywhere in the world in five years as the businesses grow.

Shell has 11,000 employees in India spread across its fuel retail, gas, lubricant and technology businesses, with staff at the IT centre working to develop digital twins of the company’s remote assets, and many others engaged in remote asset monitoring.

“In five years, India will be our largest employer,” Huibert Vigeveno, director (renewables & downstream), Shell, told ET in an interview.

India will surpass the US, which has the highest number of Shell employees today, as the company’s investments in the Indian energy sector grow and opportunities for global collaborations expand.

“In five years, we will have grown a lot in greener electrons and greener molecules,” he said. Shell is beginning to make inroads into green energy in India, acquiring renewables business as well as partnering with a variety of customers to help them in their decarbonization efforts. It acquired renewable energy platform Sprng Energy in a $1.55 billion deal last year. It also opened its first EV charging facility last year and aims to set up 10,000 fast charging points by 2030.

“India will have a lot to offer on sourcing of products and services, equipment and other activities, which we will utilise in the country, but also around the world,” Vigeveno said.

The sourcing could be spread over the entire energy transition value chain from renewable energy to biofuels and electrolyzers. “India is distinctly emerging as an alternate sourcing destination for critical pieces of equipment,” said Nitin Prasad, chairman, Shell Companies, India. “What’s also happening in the energy transition is that you are looking at equipment which are much more suited to the Indian ecosystem and environment: more modular design, more oriented toward automation, robotics.”As it enhances its presence in the low-carbon sector, Shell has seen its interest wane in the refinery business. “If you look at 20 years ago, we used to have 55 refineries. If you look at early 2020, we had 16 refineries, and we are concentrating now on five refineries, which I’m transitioning to energy and chemical parks,” Vigeveno said.

Shell didn’t bid for Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL), a state-run refinery India planned to sell to the private sector. The government cancelled the sale plan last year due to poor investor interest.

Shell doesn’t need refineries to support its fuel sales network, Vigeveno said. “You don’t really require a refinery to be a very successful mobility provider. What you need is to have very strong logistics. You need terminals, depots, pipelines, trading capabilities,” he said.

Shell operates about 350 fuel retail stations in India, a tiny share of the country’s 86,000 pumps. “I don’t think there is any lack of ambition,” said Prasad. “This is not just a simple rebranding exercise. There’s a construction cycle. It takes three years to build a station.” Shell is expanding its presence to 128 cities and towns from only a handful a few years ago, he added.

Shell is keen on green hydrogen but is waiting for optimal demand to emerge before it can use its global capabilities to invest in this space in India. “We are working with the government to come back and put structures in place that will create the demand use cases, whether it’s in mobility or on steel or in ammonia or in other sectors,” Prasad said.


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