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Change at the helm of the hydrocarbon giant Shell

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Maria Gill
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Wael Sawan rose through the ranks at Shell during a 25-year career as he led the Exploration and Production division. (Photo: 123RF)

LONDON – The new head of Shell, who has been spearheading activities related to renewable energies until then, is a pure product of the group that will take on the heavy task of leading the hydrocarbon giant’s energy transition while preserving its profits.

Wael Sawan, who will take up his position on January 1, has until then been director of regulations related to gas and renewable energies activities.

He has specifically overseen the acquisition of US nuclear energy platform, Savion, and has secured wind power licenses at auctions in the US, Europe and Asia, his resume on the Shell website explains.

A 48-year-old with dual Lebanese-Canadian citizenship, Wael Sawan was born in Beirut and raised in Dubai before studying Engineering at McGill University in Canada and Business Administration at Harvard, USA.

He rose through the ranks at Shell over the course of 25 years, leading the exploration and production arm, and before that deepwater mining operations, a role that took him to the US states, in Brazil, in Nigeria, or even in Malaysia.

Previously, this invisible man, who was little present in the media, ran Shell in Qatar, among other jobs.

He served on the group’s executive committee for three years. He took the job from Dutchman Ben van Beurden, who will leave his post at the end of 2022, leaving behind a company that is sitting on mountains of profits thanks to increased hydrocarbons.

If the group publishes a transition plan towards carbon neutrality for 2050, it is regularly criticized for its continued production of hydrocarbons and therefore carbon dioxide emissions.

Shell Chairman Andrew McKenzie described Mr. Sawan as an “outstanding leader” with “all the qualities” required to guide the group, praising his “commercial, operational and transformational success” and “clarity of his strategic vision.”

He adds that the new CEO has “a passion for people that allows him to get the best out of themselves”.

Mr. Sawan said he was ‘honoured’ with his appointment, and promised that the group would be “disciplined and focused on delivering value” as it works to generate “the clean, reliable energy the world needs”. .

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