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Vice President Research Strategy, Shell & Chairman and Chief Scientist, Shell Science Council

Date & Time

Monday Mon, 12 Sep 2022

Location (for BIC Venue, BIC Hybrid and BIC Cafe)

Infosys Science Foundation
No 2, 2nd Block 14th Cross Road Jayanagar East, Near South End Circle
Bangalore, Karnataka 560 011 India
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Energy transitions have happened before in human history, but they are rare. They are usually moments where significant parts of society are able to significantly increase their living standards. They are also slow in their scale up. To achieve scale so that entire societies can “transition” cannot be just driven by technical opportunity, but, in fact by three factors: there has to be security of access to energy which requires clear governmental strategies, and to make it affordable at a large scale there has to be a commercially robust economic model, which in liberal societies requires a private energy sector. Thirdly, both “actors” need to be able to minimize environmental impact to not compromise the well-being of the population. Trade-offs among these three determine to a large extend the speed at which a transition will happen.

This is no different for the transition to a net-zero energy system. What is new though is that first, there is a time window within which we must achieve enough scale to avoid undesired consequences caused by climate change, as codified in the Paris agreement. Secondly, the environmental impact is now truly global affecting Earth’s atmospheric temperature affecting us all. To meet the global challenge to stop climate change by anthropogenic processes requires a systems approach rather than just a collection of low carbon technologies and fuel substitutions.

We will show that the future can be very bright, provided circularity concepts in industrial manufacturing and optimization of supply chains of energy and resources, including waste is developed. This may be enabled by advances by data driven digital technologies. For example supply chains that would provide greater transparency to consumers of how the trade-offs among economics, security and environment may be made in a given society. Also, digitization of (chemical) engineering to build circular concepts in chemical industries around waste repurposing will possibly lead to deep connections with agriculture. Big Energy companies are very good in systems engineering and supply chain development and can be instrumental to help accelerate scale in circularity manufacturing. In doing so, connections between different business sectors including agricultural may be developed.

In this session Dirk Smit will discuss some of these concepts and illustrate how large scale systems thinking is crucial for a net-zero transition to happen in time. He will also talk about how this may help establish fruitful collaborations among government, industry and major Academic and engineering thought leaders, as well as institutes to develop necessary innovations needed to accelerate a net-zero energy transition. The talk will be followed by a Q&A session.

In collaboration with NCBS and Infosys Science Foundation



Dirk Smit

Vice President Research Strategy, Shell & Chairman and Chief Scientist, Shell Science Council

Dirk Smit graduated from Utrecht University in 1989 with a PhD in Mathematical Physics, String Theory. He went on to complete an academic post-doctorate at Berkeley and was awarded a post-doctorate at Harvard University. He joined Shell’s Geophysics R&D department in the Netherlands in 1992.

Since then he has held numerous positions, including Chief Geophysicist for Shell UK and Technology Manager for Hydrocarbon Exploration, and Vice President Exploration and Upstream Technology. Recently, he has been appointed Vice President Research Strategy for Shell. He continues in his roles as Chairman for the Shell Science Council and Chief Scientist.

Dirk holds several positions outside Shell: He is a Fellow of MIT at the Earth Research Lab in the Earth Sciences department. He holds a Visiting Professorship in Geoscience at the Chinese University of Petroleum in Beijing and is an Adjunct Professorship and Advisor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. He serves (and has served) on numerous university advisory and Industry Innovation boards in The Netherlands, China and US. Dirk served as a member of the National Research Council on Solid Earth Observations in the US and has been for 9 years a member of the National Dutch Science Board for Basic Science Research in the Netherlands. He also has been a member of the MIT Presidential Advisory Committee for Earth Sciences until 2021.

He is the recipient of the Ludwig Mintrop Award in Geophysics from the EAGE in 2002 and was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2020.

In his spare time, Dirk is an amateur astronomer and, together with his son, enjoys searching the deep skies through an 11 inch SCT (telescope) during long, Dutch, winter nights. He can be found on LinkedIn under his name.