Nauta is bekend als oprichter van Nederland Kennisland,
secretaris van het Innovatieplatform en nu als lector van de HAN.
Ook in zijn nieuwe rol zal hij zijn column op ScienceGuide
blijven verzorgen en als lector aan de HAN verbonden blijven. En
Nauta treedt op als een van de kennisexperts die onder leiding
van Farid Tabarki de topkandidaten in het MTV Coolpolitics debat op 3 juni tot
extra diepgang mag verleiden.
De formele start van de Climate KIC van het EIT, dat Barroso in
zijn eerste periode als Commissiepresident in Brussel heeft
doorgezet, is vandaag in Barcelona. "Dit is een lastige, maar ook
spannende fase,"zegt Nauta. "We hebben de basisformatie voor de KIC
rond. Die staat. Daarmee is het ook het moment dat wij naar buiten
In ons land bestaat het consortium van kennisinstellingen dat de
KIC trekt uit de UU, TUD, WUR, TNO, Deltares, de provincie
Utrecht en de gemeente Rotterdam met haar Stadshavens-project.
Op Europees niveau komt er een 'governing board' voor heel het
project, waarin de CEO en enkele andere topofficials voor de tech,
onderwijs en wetenschapsbeleid aspecten zitting hebben, samen met
de directeuren van de vijf nationale centra, onder wie Frans Nauta.
Voor de deelnemende kennisinstellingen in Oost-Europa komt er ook
een coördinerend centrum.
U leest hier een vraaggesprek met KIC CEO Van
der Eijk, gehouden toen hij recent nog de CTO van
It's our understanding that Shell, as a company, has
articulated what it calls the three hard truths of the world's
energy needs. Can you tell me, what are those truths?
JvdE: The first hard truth is that
the world's energy demand will grow and it will actually grow
substantially. This is driven by a growth in the world population,
but also in an improvement of living standards in areas of the
world like China and India. That's number one.
The second hard truth is that the supply of energy from
conventional oil and gas sources will struggle to keep up with this
growing demand and we will need new sources of energy, ranging from
renewable energies to also unconventional oil and gas.
Then finally, this increase in energy demand and also the need to
use all kinds of sources of energy will lead to an increase in CO2
emissions and we all know that these CO2 emissions are related to
global warming. So that's a major concern and also something that
calls for aggressive action.
May I follow up on that thought about Shell's commitment to do
something about the CO2 problem that's involved
with producing energy? Why is Shell interested in this?
Why is this something that's important to Shell?
JvdE: This comes to our belief that
rising CO2 levels are very likely to lead to warming of our planet
and that global warming is something that has unacceptable
consequences for mankind, at least unpredictable consequences for
mankind. We believe it is time to take action in this area
Tell me a little bit more about these new efforts that Shell is
doing in tackling the CO2
JvdE: People talk about CCS - it stands for
CO2 carbon and carbon capture and sequestration and just to say it
in layman's terms it's when we are burning fossil energy we make a
gas, called flue gas, that contains CO2 but also nitrogen and a
number of other things.
One of the main programs that we, but also other companies have, is
how can we effectively take that CO2 from this particular flue gas
stream, but also from streams that we produce in our refineries
that are sometimes a bit more concentrated than flue gas... how can
we effectively take that CO2 from that flue gas, then through
pipelines, bring it to a location where we then are able to inject
that in the subsurface - that's called sequestration or storage -
and then to make sure that the material that we have stored
subsurface is going to stay there for many, many centuries to
The research that is done by Shell and other companies is about
improved capture techniques, to bring the cost down and to also
bring the energy consumption associated with capturing down. But
then to focus very much on the subsurface. Understanding what
happens if you inject CO2 in the subsurface. Where does it move to?
Would it actually react with the rocks? Would there be a chance
that, over time, that CO2 starts to come to the surface? There is a
lot of work going on in that space to basically provide the
assurance that when you store CO2 it will be there for many, many
centuries to come.
That is an effort that Shell addresses, but we're definitely not
alone and we also realize that this is a subject where you really
need to work together with governments, other industry partners and
academia. Some of the topics we're talking about are just too big
for a single company and new ways of working together between the
industry, governments and academia are really necessary.
Tell me a little bit about the role of technology and how new
technologies might help us deal with some of these truths
that you've described.
JvdE: Let's first focus on technology
that helps to make more energy available. As I mentioned, the first
hard truth is that there will be more demand for energy. Technology
at the moment is helping us to increase the recovery of
hydrocarbons from existing resources, so you have to think about
the resources like you have in the Middle-East.
Recovery rates today are about 35 percent and we're trying to push
this to higher numbers, let's say up to fifty percent, by the
application of modern control techniques, but also by the injection
of chemicals, for instance. Then we are also working hard to get
new energy from difficult locations and here you have to think
about very deep water.
Today the industry is able to produce hydrocarbons from a
subsurface that is covered by more than two kilometers of water and
also finding ways to recover oil in the Arctic, where the
environment is extremely sensitive and we need to have techniques
to not disturb that region. Then we are also moving to, what we
call unconventional oil and gas, where the composition of the oil
or the gas is difficult. Here you have to think about the heavy
oils, for instance, in Canada and Venezuela, but also the vast
hydrocarbon resources in the United States, these are the oil
But there are also vast resources of hydrocarbons, gases that are
contaminated with H2S and CO2 and if only we were able to
efficiently separate these contaminates from the gas we'd have a
new source of energy. So there is a massive investment in the
industry, and also in the company I'm working with, to make more
fossil energy available.
Can you tell me a little bit about some of the projects that
Shell is developing in these areas?
JvdE: I'm more than happy to do so.
Our company invests very substantially in research and development.
In fact, we are the biggest investor in R&D in our industry. We
believe that technology differentiation is the way for us to grow
the company. We build also on a history of technology first in many
Just to mention a few things, we have worked very hard to turn gas
via a process involving synthesis gas into liquids that can be used
in the transportation sector, so this is a way to use gas for the
transportation sector. In the past, of course, this was all coming
from oil and not from gas.
And we are having a plant in Malaysia that actually produces these
excellent transportation fuels, and we are now building a very
large plant, the biggest in the world, in Qatar, that will produce
more of these so-called GTL liquids. Then we focus very much on
pushing the boundaries on deep water, ultra-deep water. We recently
announced further investments in the Gulf of Mexico, but also near
the coast of Brazil and in Malaysia. This is an area where Shell
every time adds a few hundred meters of water depth to its record.
It opens up the energy that's available at these reservoirs below
Then we're working very hard on unconventional heavy oils. We have
a new technology that makes that heavy oil that's very difficult to
produce, available. We do this by having something like a
subsurface refinery where we convert these very heavy molecules
into lighter products that we can then easily produce. We're very
proud of that development and hope that we are able to harness that
to substantial commercial production.
Then we have coal gasification. We are having a technology that
gasifies coal and allows you to have clean coal energy. That is a
way to avoid that all the contaminates in coal end up in the air. I
think that's a major contribution of the company to make
responsible energy available. And then - I'm just going on here -
there's biofuels. We have a substantial program with a number of
different start-up companies that are all aiming to make biofuels
available from sources that do not compete with food. Here you have
to think about agricultural residues or forestry products, or maybe
in the future, algae that you can grow in seawater farms.
So, in short, we have a long list of projects all pursuing two
common themes. One is more fossil energy, and we do that in
response to this first hard truth, that the world needs more
energy, and also work hard to reduce the environmental footprint of
our energy and that is in response to the third hard truth that the
environmental constraints are growing.
In the context of some of these new technologies that you've
described, is there one that has really grabbed your imagination as
something that is extremely important and something that is
powerfully grabbed your imagination here, that could really make a
difference down the road for people?
Let me just take two. One is this technology that we are
developing to convert heavy oils subsurface so that we can produce
that. What we're doing is we are having a technique to heat the
subsurface in which the heavy oil is contained and bring it to a
temperature where the molecules in the subsurface start to crack
and then we are producing the lighter components and turning them
into fuels whilst we leave some of the heavy fractions back in the
This is something I'm really fascinated by and this whole idea of
having something like a subsurface refinery I find, not only
scientifically exciting, but I believe it has a tremendous
potential to unlock a number of sources that with current
techniques are actually not possible to produce economically, and
if you do, with undesirable environmental footprints.
The other area I'm personally really excited about is exploration.
This is all about finding new oil and gas. This is of course
important to the world, because we need more fossil energy and if
you just look at what new techniques around seismic gravitational
difference measurements, electromagnetic radiation and the
interpretation of all the reflections that you get from the
subsurface when you treat the subsurface with these waves, it is
really fascinating to see how much we can learn about the
subsurface from these techniques, applying also high-performance
computers that are able to convert and process enormous amounts of
I think that's an area where we're really at the cutting-edge of
science. It's also an area that has a very practical use and that
is that we are able - much better than in the past - to identify
where hydrocarbons are and also getting more efficient at finding
the resources and then producing them.
Two very different subjects, one about chemistry and catalysis and
the other about measurements and data processing that both are
giving an enormous upswing to this industry.
What is the most important thing that you would like the public to
know about these three hard truths of energy that you
JvdE: I think... It's not so that it's
important for them to be able to reproduce these three hard truths.
What is important is that people start to realize that fossil
energy is a finite resource. And that we need to find ways to use
that energy in a more responsible manner.
I believe this comes back to, not only the technologies I've
described today, but also technologies that allow people to use
less energy. This has to do, for instance, with buildings, lighter
cars, insulation of your buildings, but also I think different
choices of consumers.
I think, over time, we need to realize that we have no total
freedom in using this precious resource, but that we need to do
more about conservation so that we leave enough behind for the next
generation and the generation thereafter. I think that is, I
personally believe, the biggest message for the broader society is
we need, together, to start using energy in a different way than we