By on January 22, 2014

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For 40 years the Shell oil company has been putting out reports on what expects in the future. This year’s report titled New Lens Scenarios sees passenger road transportation being “nearly oil-free” by the year 2070. The report is in the plural, scenarios, because the futurists at Shell envision two possible outcomes, which they call “Mountains” and “Oceans”. In both scenarios the world’s population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050 and by 2070 electricity and hydrogen will be the primary means of fueling road transportation.

In the Mountains “lens”, existing governmental and economic power structures are maintained, natural gas will become dominant by the 2030s and demand for liquid fuels will go down. A more urban population will drive much less, about 1,200 miles a year, and use public transport and bicycles more. This lens sees economic growth stagnating and the world failing to meet the target of no more than a 2 degree centigrade rise in average global temperatures.

In the Oceans lens, Shell predicts a changing economic structure to one that is more accommodating of compromise. The world in this more collective scenario would be a more prosperous one, but also more volatile. Dwindling resources of food, energy, and water become the new priorities. Solar and renewable energy becomes more dominant, though fossil fuels will still be used and as with the other scenario, global warming continues.

There’s way too much in the report for a single news blog item, and you’d like, you can read the full PDF file here. A more complete explanation of the nature of the Mountains and Oceans scenarios from the report is below.

Mountains is a world in which those occupying commanding advantage (at the top) generally work to create stability in ways that promote the persistence of the status quo. there is a steady, self-reinforcing, lock-in of incumbent power and institutions. this lock-in constrains the economic potential of some sectors of society, but enables established sectors aligned with market forces to unlock resources that require significant capital and new technology. As for the less fortunate, the thinness of social safety nets is not completely offset by the growth in philanthropy, characterised by an eruption of foundations endowed by increasing numbers of billionaires.

Oceans is a world in which competing interests and the diffusion of influence are met with a rising tide of accommodation. this trajectory is driven by a growing global population with increasing economic empowerment, and a growing recognition by the currently advantaged that their continued success requires compromise. steady reform of economic and financial structures keeps pace with the development of fast-emerging nations and progressively unlocks the productivity of broader sectors in society. But volatility and multiple constituencies impede policy developments in other areas, so tight resources are unlocked primarily by market forces.

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55 Comments on “Shell Report Sees “Nearly Oil-Free” Transportation by 2070, With Gasoline Replaced by Hydrogen and Electricity...”


  • avatar

    The only way I see that happening is if someone figures out how to make synthetic fuel, bacteria-based synthetic fuels or salt-water based batteries. Fossil fuels are the basis of all life on Earth’s surface. Thank the Sun for Photosynthesis.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> if someone figures out how to make synthetic fuel, bacteria-based synthetic fuels

      I agree. Here’s a snapshot of some of the technologies. I have a son pursuing a PhD in Bio-molecular engineering, so he’s been keeping me up to date on the research:

      http://www.sapphireenergy.com/locations/green-crude-farm.html

      Gasoline Fuel Cell:
      http://www.technologyreview.com/news/426252/gasoline-fuel-cell-would-boost-electric-car-range/

      Green Gas:
      http://bioenergy.msu.edu/fuel/green_gas
      http://www.engr.wisc.edu/che/newsletter/2009_winter/article01_green-gasoline.html
      http://www.umass.edu/researchnext/race-green-gasoline

      Green Crude Plant:
      http://www.sapphireenergy.com/sapphire-renewable-energy/

    • 0 avatar
      Stephen7

      Fossil fuels are NOT the basis of life on Earth. Almost all life on Earth ultimately gets its energy from the sun. Fossil fuels were created from the decomposition of ancient life over millions of years. That’s why they are called “fossil” fuels. No sun, no energy, no life. No life, no fossil fuels.

      Also vehicles do not necessarily need fuel, they just need energy and a way to convert that energy. Fuel and combustion engines are only the middle man, and some could argue an inefficient one at that. Eventually we will develop more efficient methods of harnessing and trasferring energy that everything we have now will be obsolete.

      And for anyone that cannot picture filling your car up with hydrogen, just remember that you aren’t shoveling coal into it either. Things change.

      • 0 avatar

        STEPHEN:

        You must have just needed something to reply to because your reply is ridiculous.

        I could clean up my statement and say that “the sun gives plants the energy to create food for life on earth”, but I assumed you’d understand me when I talk about photosynthesis.

        • 0 avatar
          Stephen7

          I still don’t understand what you were trying to say. What exactly does “fossil fuels are the basis for all life on Earth’s surface mean”? And how does that relate to the topic of the article which was the prediction of hydrogen and electricity replacing fossil fuels in transportation?

          Are you trying to say that hydrogen/electricity can’t be generated without fossil fuels, plants, what? Please feel free to explain because I’m just trying to make sense of your post.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      That’s kinda the point with hydrogen and electric. Most of hydrogen production will come from fossil fuels.

      The first case of large-scale hydrogen which is being developed right now is the use of brown coal to produce hydrogen in Australia, with carbon sequestration done on-site.

      Hyrdogen is just a energy carrier, obviously it can be made from solar, wind, etc, but most will be made via natural gas, oil, and coal. Same with battery technology.

      Fossil fuels are not getting replaced. In fact, when you look at it, we can only use a small sliver of fossil fuels in cars (gasoline and diesel), all this other fossil fuel (in the form of natural gas and coal) can’t be used to motivate your vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Stephen7

        I think focusing on the source of the hydrogen and electricty also misses some of the point of hydrogen and electric vehicles. Yes, now it is very dependent on fossil fuels, but as the report touches on in other sections, in the future a greater percentage of electricity will come from renewable sources. Just as technology has advanced to increase gas and oil production, technological advances are also expected in photovoltaics, batteries, capacitors, etc.

        The other major difference with hydrogen/electric vehicles are the byproducts they produce. Zero emission transportation is more attractive for densely populated areas. Heat is also a byproduct of burning fuel, so making vehicles that lose less energy in the conversion process is also a major factor.

        As for your statement about natural gas not being able to fuel cars, that’s simply not the case and was also addressed in this report.

        Regardless of how anyone feels about “alternative” vehicles or fossil fuels this report simply acknowledges that there is already a shift in the market and that it will only increase as the years go on.

        • 0 avatar
          L'avventura

          The point I was making with hydrogen and BEVs was that it offers an options of power generation. Whether it be through alternative solutions or through traditional fossil fuels.

          By having intermediates like hydrogen and BEVs, suddenly renewable energy generation can easily fit into transportation.

          As far as natural gas, yes, there are CNGs cars. But again, suddenly you are limited to one type of energy source. With hydrogen as an energy carrier, you aren’t limited to that.

          And that’s the real point of hydrogen. It allows greater fungibility of energy (whether it be from dirty coal or from clean solar).

  • avatar
    TR4

    It would be interesting to know what they predicted forty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      racebeer

      Don’t know about 40 years ago, but this is their document from 2008:

      http://www.manicore.com/fichiers/Shell_scenarii_to_2050.pdf

      Form your own conclusions ……

      EDIT: Found the link to all of their predictions:

      http://www.shell.com/global/future-energy/scenarios/previous.html

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      I did work on the 1969 and 1970 versions of this sort of report for one of the predecessor companies of Exxon-Mobil. Looking back, I guess its major purpose was to prevent top management from getting blind sided by social and technological trends the knowledge of which might not penetrate the lofty floors of the Petroleum Club until it was too late. Our sole primary assumption was no nuclear war.

      We brought in all manner of academics: e.g. climate change experts (in 1969 no less), doomsday scenario idiots (disciples of Robert Erlich from MIT), industry experts from MIT like Morrie Adleman. The report also made industry projections by in-house employees, but they were not very good. They did not even hint at the possibility of an Energy Crisis like what happened in October 1974.

      My browser has, so far made it impossible to read the Shell report in detail. I am working to fix this. Meanwhile, I have been trying to find references to hydraulic fracturing in the Shell report without success. This suggests it is either dated or its authors just uninterested in what might happen in the next 10 to 30 years.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Growing as a child in the 60s. I was fascinated by Walt Disney’s visions of the “World of the Future”.

    We all know how those rosy predictions of the future have actually turned out.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    As much as I would welcome the future predicated by the Ocean scenario, I see little that would prevent the more likely Mountain scenario.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    It’s always interesting to see this kind of stuff as Shell is one of the companies that has to take a very long view in their business planning.

    I could see a middle scenario (Beach?) in which the desire to maintain a Mountain scenario gets violently disrupted in some cases by those trying to create an Ocean scenario. Those who manage to compromise and accomodate a peaceful transition would form a sort of “first world” with fractious relations with those in either the Mountain or Ocean scenario.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Consider the accuracy of predictions for 2014 made in 1958. Move along.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Yes, and then increase their error rate by an order of magnitude as innovation is actually accelerating as time passes.

      My prediction is that solar is going to slowly disrupt every projection, although I also agree that natural gas will play a big part in the next wave of transportation. It’s long overdue.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This document is hilarious.

    “In both scenarios the world’s population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050″

    That’s extremely optimistic since we went from six to seven billion in just over a decade from 1999. They must be counting on disease/famine/war/Fukushima to keep growth slow and conservative.

    “October 12 1999: The World Population Hits 6 Billion”

    http://people.howstuffworks.com/population-six-billion.htm

    “The UN has declared the World Population surpassing 7 billion on 31 October 2011″

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_Billion_Actions

    “In the Mountains “lens”, existing governmental and economic power structures are maintained”

    This is also extremely optimistic and we’ll probably find was inaccurate. One major geopolitical event not out of the playbook of TPTB and the whole structure could change. Meteor. Mutated H1N1. Nuclear disaster. San Andreas Quake.

    “Dwindling resources of food, energy, and water become the new priorities.”

    Breaking up Monsanto would be a good start, curtailing or elimnating the use of corn ethanol as well. We create food shortages and then point to them as major issues. Nice to control both sides of the coin.

    “Solar and renewable energy becomes more dominant, though fossil fuels will still be used and as with the other scenario, global warming continues.”

    This makes spit my coffee its so ridiculous. Maybe Al and the rest of the ideologues should become acquainted with our new friend POLAR VORTEX… or maybe we should stop spraying aluminum and barium in the upper atmosphere, ya know just a thought.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      Agreed on all points, especially on putting the ax to both Monsanto and the chemtrailing.

      However, was anyone here expecting anything less than a huge crock of BS from our friends at Shell?

      I’ve gotten so familiar with the party line from these people, I could write out their press releases before they issue them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        When I was a kid I used to get excited at books along these lines, the sort that showed electric cars, undersea cities, and bio domes as being the not too distant future. Now it *is* the future and well, it doesn’t look much different than 1992 except computers have somewhat evolved and real social skills have devolved.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          Depends on your lifestyle. If you’re a software executive who works from home in a condo at 8 Spruce Street in NYC and you drive a Tesla, your world is very futuristic.

          If you drive a 94′ Camry and live in an unrenovated 1970’s split level, then it does still feel like the 90s.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Very much agreed.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            The future is already here, but it isn’t evenly distributed.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            That’s the difference between rich and poor. But I don’t see much “futuristic” there.

            The condo at 8 Spruce Street is no more futuristic than Casa Milà which was completed more than 100 years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “The condo at 8 Spruce Street is no more futuristic than Casa Milà which was completed more than 100 years ago.”

            Casa Mila looks to be 8 stories, 8 Spruce is almost 80.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “They must be counting on disease/famine/war/Fukushima to keep growth slow and conservative”

      Huh? Birth rates are plunging all over the world and are below replacement rate in most industialized countries. In the less industrialze world, in places like China the birthrate is 1.58 per woman. India has gone from 6 to 2.5 in a generation.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        So they assume for the next 36 years this trend will continue.? What about the possibility even with a slower birth rate that the natural mortality rate goes down due to more people living well past 100?

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “What about the possibility even with a slower birth rate that the natural mortality rate goes down due to more people living well past 100?”

          That’s very possible. What isn’t really possible is a surge in the birth rate and a significant rise in population.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          Mortality goes down, yes, but the overall trend is that the population stabilizes as GDP/education/other trends go up.

          The US has a current growth rate of .7% (the highest among industrialized nations). The current birth rate is estimated to be 13.5/1000 as of 2010. 13.5/1000 = .0135 The inverse of this is 74 years. With a given life expectancy of 78 years, this shows the birth rate is *just* barely above replacement. Most population growth is due to immigration.

          Industrialized nations historically have followed similar patterns.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Good points gentleman.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “That’s extremely optimistic since we went from six to seven billion in just over a decade from 1999. They must be counting on disease/famine/war/Fukushima to keep growth slow and conservative.”

      Or just increased wealth – which *is happening worldwide* leading to lower birthrates and stabilization.

      You don’t need disasters to level off population growth.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      So now you think *the oil industry* has become part of a great global warming conspiracy. Did you notice that Shell wrote this report?

      The mind boggles.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Shell wrote it so they must consider it a reality, which means they fall into the cult of anti-carbon.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          Without being an attack on you, 28, please understand that peer-reviewed meta-analysis of thousands of climate change studies puts your position roughly on par with denying the link between smoking and lung cancer.

          Even today, there is research being pumped out on a weekly basis about all of the benefits of smoking.

          You can believe whatever you choose to, but that will not make it correct.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            No offense taken Kinosh. Man may have influence on climate over time, but I have yet to hear a warmist also concede the weather may also have been influenced by man made factors other than carbon or possibly from changes in celestial bodies (i.e. sunspot activity).

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Yep. I’m sure that’s right. A global corporation that derives around $450 billion in annual revenue from traditionally sourced oil and gas, and less than 1% of that from carbon-neutral energy sources, is in the “cult of anti-carbon.” (See their 2012 Form 20-F for details.)

          Just think for a second about how ridiculous you sound.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I would wager Shell Corp is not about drilling or refining for oil, but *making money*. If they believe GW to be true they could slowly shift their business model in the next thirty six years as Philip Morris did when it became Altira group and diversified away from tobacco. The point of the paper for Shell is to give accurate predictions of what their company will face for the next four decades. Just because Shell offers a carbon product today does not mean they will even endorse it in the future and its entirely possible the people who wrote this paper do fall into the GW camp and are simply giving their predictions of change.

    • 0 avatar
      ZekeToronto

      Regarding population growth, please see: http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth.html .

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    As I keep telling you “Electrification is inevitable. Resistance is futile.”

  • avatar
    JD321

    As demand for heavier HCs (kero,diesel,asphalt) increases substantially…whatcha going to do with the lighter HCs? Just burn them off at the well head and refinery?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Unify them, the opposite of the way we crack big ones down to little ones for the current demand curve?

      It would naturally cost a bit more than just distillation, but that never stopped anyone from cracking, either…

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    As long as I can fill up with liquid hydrogen for my ICE, pop the clutch on my then new Corvette, and do burn-outs in the courtyard, I’ll be happy. Oh wait…I’ll be dead by then….(^_^)..

    —————-

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    Of course if the SHTF/end of society happens the breakdown would probably look like a decent mix of old Benz diesels running a mix of waste oil/transmission fluid/fry grease or whatever lipids can be scraped up, cars and trucks pimping wood gassifiers, a couple of EV’s charged with rigged up solar and wind and setups and a number of cars running Bartertown methane.

  • avatar
    Power6

    OK so what am I missing here, just looking at the chart…

    Gaseous Hydrocarbon fuels (an energy source) will be replace by electricity and hydrogen (for all practical purposes these are a means of storage and transport of energy NOT a SOURCE)

    What am I missing, are we mining energon cubes and sucking hydrogen out of the ground? I am pretty dumb with this stuff, so if anyone could explain I am all ears…

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      You can get Hydrogen (on an industrial scale) from basically two places.

      1. Strip it off Natural Gas. (I am not familiar with this method)

      2. Electrolysis.

      Chemical bonds are created because matter wants to be at a lower energy level. The formation of the H2O bond releases energy (H and O2 and a spark will cause an explosion). Basically, the process works in reverse by supplying electricity. Pump electricity in and collect the hydrogen and collect (or discard) the oxygen and you’re golden.

      The key point is caring about where the electricity comes from. Solar or nuclear? Good. Coal or oil tar? Bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Stephen7

      The chart above and section of the report just focuses on transportation and the predicted shift from oil fuels (gasoline, diesel) that have dominated the last century to hydrogen and electric vehicles. Other sections of the report cover where that electricity will come from, changes in driving behavior (miles driven, public transit, etc.) So in a nutshell all this chart is saying is less gasoline/diesel cars and more hydrogen/electric cars by 2070.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        @Stephen7 I got it, they are not concerned with energy sources just the form the engergy is transferred to the automobile.

        @Kinosh so method 1 could be considered harvesting energy. I understand that electrolysis is just putting energy in to something you can take out later. Like a battery you can fill quickly by refueling with hydrogen. I actually think it is quite promising, but not a “source” of energy if you start out with water

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          That’s a fair read. It’s energy storage.

          But that’s actually what the main issues in the auto and aviation industries are. Gasoline is a beautiful fuel because it’s liquid, cheap, relatively safe, and incredibly energy dense.

          The issue isn’t that we don’t have energy (we do!), it’s just that we don’t have terribly great ways of storing it safely or in large amounts or cheaply. The volt’s $10,000 battery pack can hold the equivalent of about a gallon of gasoline. THAT’s the issue.

          I absolutely love the technical aspects of the car industry.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Coming from an oil company, the only real explanation is we will run out of cheap oil by 2070.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Finally managed to get my browser to enable me to read the report. I was reminded that the prime directive in these exercises is never contradict any dearly held opinions of the company CEO. The current Shell management evidently is relatively pessimistic as to the future of hydraulic fracturing. This is revealed in their analysis of that subject which assumes future tight oil output only from the relative handful of known deposits and using more or less current technology. I’m not surprised. The two European majors, Shell and BP are traditionally the most conservative when it comes to estimating the oil and gas resource base.


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