Shell’s recent crossover with the popular video game Fortnite has sparked controversy around the advertisement of hydrocarbons to children.
However, discussions at industry events often touch on bringing young people into the industry to ensure the range of talent exists to transition to renewable technologies.
When asked about the controversy, Offshore Energies UK’s (OEUK) communications and marketing director, Natalie Coupar said: “It is our hope that as companies grow and develop new technologies, more and more young people will be drawn to the sector to ensure it thrives.”
Earlier this week, Shell UK’s chairman, David Bunch, shared that the firm will be launching a new Apprenticeship Programme.
Mr Bunch wrote on LinkedIn: “This initiative is in addition to Shell UK’s drive to help 15,000 people into jobs with a focus on the energy transition over the next decade and compliments a proud history of student programmes and early-career initiatives, including Girls in Energy and the Shell Engineering Scheme. ”
The London-listed supermajor has sponsored an in-game event titled ‘Shell Ultimate Road Trips’, as part of this promotion a new island has been added to Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Shell (LON: SHEL) describes this on its website, writing: “Get ready for an adventure that is all about speed, acceleration, and performance, powered by Shell V-Power® NiTRO+ Premium Gasoline.”
Shell’s climate controversy
In a recent article by The Guardian, Allison Fisher, director of Media Matters’ climate and energy program, said: “Shell’s marketing to young people is another example of how big oil puts profit over people and the planet, even though it has known for decades that the product that it sells is driving the climate crisis.”
Ms Fisher pointed out that regulators across the United States and Europe had gotten better at recognising “greenwashing” in advertising, however, on this occasion the not-for-profit spokeswoman disagrees with the ruling.
She added: “It may get by regulators, but it doesn’t make it OK.”
However, the trade body OEUK’s communications and marketing director says: “Over 90 per cent of offshore oil and gas jobs have transferrable expertise – applicable to renewables, carbon-cutting solutions and emerging energies like wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture.
“Oil and gas companies are also the same businesses investing in the nascent, low carbon solutions we will need to get the UK to net zero.”
It is worth noting that the UK energy firm recently rolled back on renewable energy spending as it was going to reassess how it allocated funds.
During a capital markets day in July, Shell said it was reassessing its 2023 spending, including slowing investment in renewables as part of a move to boost returns.
The firm explained at the time that by “constraining capital”, the company will be forced to make “tougher choices”, meaning that “only the most attractive projects will receive funding.”
That included “disciplined” investment in areas like CCUS and hydrogen.
This has prompted the supermajor’s staff to question how the firm is allocating spending, with a pair of employees recently issuing an open letter to the firm’s chief executive Wael Sawan.
The letter explained that the recent decisions “deeply concern” two Shell employees.
The pair added: “We can only hope the optics of the CMD [capital markets day] announcements are deceiving us and that Shell continues its path as a leader in the energy transition.”
Mr Sawan saw the letter and responded by saying: “For an organisation at the crux of the energy transition, there are no easy answers and no shortage of dilemmas or challenge.”
Shell has been asked for comment on its recent Fortnite collaboration.
Managing the decline of oil and gas to keep skilled workers for the energy transition
Earlier this year a report from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University found that retaining the offshore oil and gas supply chain, its workforce and associated skills over the next five years will be crucial to the UK’s successful transition to renewable energies.
RGU found that by not managing the decline in oil and gas in the North Sea and supporting the roll-out of renewable energy, jobs will be lost in hydrocarbon positions and equivalents will not be there for those looking to move into green energy.
In line with production decline and decommissioning activities, the report showed that a managed and just transition from oil and gas to renewables will still see the oil and gas workforce decline from 120,000 today to around 87,000 by 2030.
The research outlined three scenarios for the workforce on the journey to net zero.
The first two show that encouraging investment in renewables will more than make up for the jobs lost by the declining work in the North Sea oil and gas sector.
However, the third scenario indicates that “the decline in oil and gas jobs exceeds the opportunities available in the offshore renewables sector.”
Ms Coupar explained: “By choosing a career in homegrown energy production, young people are helping to achieve the UK’s ambitious climate goals of tomorrow while continuing to deliver the resources needed for our energy security today.”