Shell's new CEO reinforces gas technology focus

Tue Jul 9, 2013 9:38am EDT
 
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By Andrew Callus

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote) named refining head Ben van Beurden as its new chief executive, picking a man with little board-level experience but broad company exposure and first-hand knowledge of the gas technology it has bet its future on.

Van Beurden, who became head of refining, marketing and chemicals in January, has been at the Anglo-Dutch group for 30 years and spent a decade in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

At 55, the Dutchman is of similar age to Peter Voser, the Swiss national he is replacing, who announced his surprise retirement in May.

Though not widely known outside Europe's top oil company, van Beurden is respected inside it. He also represents a big part of Voser's vision of its future as a business in the forefront of oil and gas technology thanks to his experience in LNG, where Shell has become the acknowledged industry leader.

Van Beurden, who a former Shell executive described as "'The Quiet Man' within Shell - but enormously determined," faces an industry-wide battle to replace reserves and control costs. Some shareholders want Shell to reduce investment and keep more for bigger dividends.

Voser told Reuters after his retirement announcement that he was resisting that call.

Like Voser, who will be 55 in August and is leaving in search of a lifestyle change, van Beurden is from the downstream part of the business which wrested control from the upstream oil and gas division in the aftermath of Shell's reserves accounting crisis of 2003/2004.

A chemical engineering graduate, van Beurden had a front seat for the crisis, in which the company was forced to downgrade its oil and gas reserves that top executives had over-estimated for years.   Continued...

 
Ben van Beurden, who has been nominated new chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, is seen in this December 12, 2012 handout photo. REUTERS/Reinier Gerritsen/Royal Dutch Shell plc/Handout via Reuters