Shell touts technology in search for alternative fuels

Royal Dutch Shell engineers and scientists say they are working on technology to extract hard-to-reach oil around the world even as they push the use of alternative fuels in transportation and try to reduce the impact their work has on the environment.

During a conference at the company’s Houston technology hub on Thursday, company officials stressed the need to explore different energy sources to meet the world’s growing needs over the next several decades.

“There is no silver bullet or single option in mobility going forward,” said Gerald Schotman, Shell’s chief technology officer.

As oil and gas companies dig and probe into deeper and deeper waters and harder-to-penetrate rocks around the world, technology will play an increasing role in how they operate, Schotman said.

“Our whole industry is seeing a growing shift toward more difficult geologies,” he said.

While crude is a big part of energy companies’ product, there was a lot of discussion at the conference about the search for natural gas and the use of liquefied natural gas.

Scott Hartman, a Shell official who works on LNG applications, said applying LNG as a transport fuel will increase in the future.

He noted that natural gas is abundant, affordable and has less of an impact on the environment.

But even with all of the pluses, he said widespread use of the fuel in transportation in the future is not guaranteed.

“We still need enabling regulations to get us there,” Hartman said.

The two-day technology conference that started Wednesday came as Shell continued to deal with the fallout from its Kulluk drilling rig running aground in Alaska.

The Coast Guard says lifeboats swept from the rig as it was battered by stormy seas may have leaked as much as 272 gallons of diesel fuel along the shores of  Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island.

The Kulluk grounded on Dec. 31. The 266-foot rig has since been towed to sheltered Kiliuda Bay 30 miles away.