Royal Dutch Shell and Total flirt with becoming utilities

IN AMERICA Big Oil remembers BP’s attempt to go “Beyond Petroleum” in the 2000s as a toe-curling embarrassment. In Europe it is seen as being ahead of its time. Once again the oil industry is experimenting with cross-dressing. Statoil, a Norwegian oil firm, is abandoning a name given to it almost 50 years ago to become the wispier Equinor. The firm formerly known as Dong, for Danish Oil and Natural Gas, is now Ørsted, a big wind firm named after the founder of electromagnetism.

Royal Dutch Shell and Total, Europe’s biggest private producers, are (mercifully) not changing their names. But they are toying with a strategy that could be far more adventurous—moving their core businesses from hydrocarbons to electrons.

Amid pressure to limit climate change, and the growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs), they expect low-carbon electricity to become a much bigger part of the world’s energy mix within the next few decades. They have already invested heavily in building global natural-gas businesses for cleaner…Continue reading

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