No single solution available to meet looming “energy challenge”: Shell

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A surging world population and a global shift towards urban living will create unprecedented demand for energy by 2050, but where will that energy come from?

Shell has given considerable attention to this issue, which it dubs the looming “energy challenge.”

“Our world’s energy demand is increasing,” said Dr. Selda Gunsel, vice-president, global commercial technology with Shell Lubricants. She predicted energy demand will double, or even triple, by 2050, when the human population is expected to reach nine billion.

“As the population grows, the need for mobility grows,” she said at Shell’s Global Media Showcase. Today, about 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. That’s expected to climb to 75% by 2050, “which means more emissions and we can’t afford more environmental stresses,” Gunsel said. “We will need more energy, but we will also need clean energy.”

It will also be necessary to use energy more efficiently, Gunsel added, and to use all energy sources available.

“We believe there is not a single solution to meet this energy challenge,” she said. “Conventional fuels, alternative fuels, bio-fuel, solar, hydrogen – we need all those options to meet this huge challenge.”
Shell isn’t predicting fossil fuels will be replaced by alternative energy sources anytime soon. Gunsel said by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s vehicles will still use current engine technologies and be powered by fossil fuels.

“Alternative technologies are being developed, but it takes several decades at least for any energy solution to make a material impact,” Gunsel said. “It’s really important for us to continue to improve the efficiency of our existing technologies.”

This means continuously improving the lubricants used in the transportation industry.

“Viscosity is key,” Gunsel said. “In general, we want to reduce friction so we need to go to lower viscosity lubricants.”

She said a 10% fuel economy improvement can be achieved by moving from a 15W-40 engine oil to a 0W-20, though that’s a transition customers and OEMs will likely want to make incrementally. They’re already factory filling with 5W-30 engine oils in many cases.

Dr. Jason Brown, global technology manager, heavy-duty engine oils with Shell, said there are five key market drivers today. They include: reduced emissions; extended service intervals; extended equipment life; increased power output; and improved fuel economy.

Shell officials indicated it’s more important than ever for oil companies to work collaboratively with truck and engine manufacturers to co-design products that can achieve those objectives.


James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Two or three fold increase in energy consumption in 35 years.
    – Even assuming the most optimistic renewable energy projections, Fossil fuels will supply the vast majority of this demand. Or: Nuclear energy production will skyrocket.

    In 35 years 1/3 of cars will be electric or fuel cell powered.
    – But what will be recharging the batteries and fuel cells? A majority will receive their power from fossil fuel or nuclear power generation.

  • Just typical of what oil companies want you to hear that there is no quick fix to getting away from dirty oil (fossil fuels) anytime soon. There are many options and the one that we can use right now and they are using in the U.S. is E85 fuel at the pump. This story only tells part of options that are available to consumers for the fear of some big fat oil exec not making his bonuses. The most disturbing part is that there are all of these stories that say that the price of oil is getting hurt and we are decades away from finding clean energy solutions. Our cars that we drive on the road are all capable of running on E85 fuel that are 1996 and newer. These vehicles are referred to as FLEX FUEL like mine that is a 2003. The documentary on Canada Netflix is called PUMP and it will open your eyes to what corruption and greed does and other things like environmental disasters and the lose of human life because of war. Canada wake up we have choices and we don’t look at them. Are we that self absorbed and callus to do something about this matter?