Marijn Spruit


October 2018

Marijn has been the Chief Economist for Shell Trading and Head of Oil Markets Analysis since April 2018. After graduating in Mechanical Engineering at Delft University in the Netherlands, Marijn joined Shell in 1992. He has held positions in Refining, Supply, Chemicals, Lubricants and Strategy before becoming Production Manager at the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar in 2012. Most recently, Marijn led the Kashagan Oil Field development project in Kazakhstan to a successful start-up as GM Operations.

 

How does the oil markets analysis team support Shell’s trading businesses?

My role is to advise Shell’s trading organisation on short term dynamics impacting the global oil markets, and I lead the team that models the future crude, oil products and chemicals trends. Our team also provides supply and demand analysis and pricing models to support strategic planning and capital investment decisions across the Royal Dutch Shell Group.

 

What are some of the biggest opportunities for today’s global oil market?

With all the headlines on trade wars, sanctions, Turkey, Argentina, etc., we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the growth of oil product demand is continuing at an unprecedented pace. For example, the growth in US crude supply has so far prevented crude price hikes above the $100 per barrel levels that we saw in the past. If you add in the historically low stocks and a low spare crude supply capacity, then volatility in prices could increase significantly.

At the same time, we see more and more data and information coming to our attention. This has changed quite a bit in even just the past few years and it’s something that will continue to evolve. In today’s world, information is instantaneous. Using digitalisation to build a fundamental understanding is a key opportunity in our business.

Another area we are still coming to grips with is the potential for light tight oil in the US and elsewhere. What we have seen over the last five years has been very impressive as it has completely changed the oil supply picture.

A third opportunity is to use this demand growth alongside the changing mobility needs to transform the energy markets with other offerings, such as more renewables and cleaner fuels.

 

What are some of the biggest threats/risks?

The energy transition is the biggest challenge for the oil industry in the years to come. The energy transition is underway, and it will unfold differently in different sectors as there will be different drivers in different countries. In today’s world, oil continues to play a fundamental role in global energy and fossil fuels are expected to remain essential despite high renewables growth. How oil’s supply and demand picture plays out in the long-term remains to be seen, but we are certainly assessing various scenarios to ensure Shell continues to remain relevant whatever the outcome.

In the shorter term, risks are primarily in the stability of emerging markets, trade wars, Iran, regional stability and the growing global debt mountain.

Of a different order, but still a key challenge for our business, is the attractiveness of Shell as an employer for future generations. In my view, the oil side of Shell will continue to be a very attractive place to work in for many years to come. We will need to ensure that we continue to attract the top talent required to face the opportunities and challenges ahead.

 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like to travel and cook.  I also enjoy spending time with my wife and three teenagers.

 

What are your thoughts on China’s position in global oil markets?

Even with the current slowdown, China continues to have the largest demand growth in oil product markets, and China continues to be a very important market for us.

Refinery new builds have been more or less in pace with demand, but the sheer size of the China oil supply and demand balance means that small domestic changes in demand, regulations, stocks, etc. have a direct impact on the global oil balances, and therefore, prices.

The key will be to understand whether the current slowdown will remain gradual or accelerate, which in the latter case could have a global impact.

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