In May 2017 Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, assembled a handful of top executives at a converted farmhouse in Wassenaar, a suburb of The Hague.

The preceding three years offered plenty to talk about. Oil prices had collapsed; Shell had embarked on a complex $53 billion takeover of natural gas giant BG Group and the company’s offices had been raided over a controversial Nigerian deal.

However, the agenda cut far deeper than the recent past and what the next few years might hold. Instead, executives were given the task of defining what one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies should look like several decades into the future.

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