Shell Plc has tapped its renewables boss Wael Sawan to succeed CEO Ben van Beurden, who the company said on Sept. 15 will step down at the end of 2022 after a nearly four-decade career at the energy supermajor.

“Ben can look back with great pride on an extraordinary 39-year Shell career, culminating in nine years as an exceptional CEO. During the last decade, he has been in the vanguard for the transition of Shell to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and has become a leading industry voice on some of the most important issues affecting society,” commented Andrew Mackenzie, Shell’s chairman.

Hart Energy September 2022 - Shell Taps Renewables Boss Wael Sawan as CEO - Ben van Beurden headshot
Prior to be naming Shell CEO in 2014, Ben van Beurden had served as downstream director and as executive vice president of chemicals prior to that. “In my journey from LNG design engineer to CEO, I have been fortunate to work alongside so many talented people from diverse backgrounds—all committed to the company’s goal of providing the world with the essential commodities of modern life,” he said in a statement. (Source: Shell Plc)

van Beurden has served as Shell CEO since January 2014. During that time, he oversaw Shell’s purchase of BG in 2016—the company’s largest acquisition in decades. More recently, he has led Shell through its transformational strategy to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and also moves to simplify both the company’s organizational and share structures.

Sawan, who currently serves as the director of integrated gas, renewables and energy solutions, is expected to help continue Shell’s green transition strategy. He previously was the director of upstream and has had a 25-year career at Shell. 

“Wael Sawan is an exceptional leader, with all the qualities needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase of transition and growth,” Mackenzie added of CEO van Beurden’ successor. “His track record of commercial, operational and transformational success reflects not only his broad, deep experience and understanding of Shell and the energy sector, but also his strategic clarity.” 

Sawan’s appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2023, when he will also join Shell’s board of directors. van Beurden will continue working as adviser to the board until June 30, 2023, after which he will leave the group.

Sawan said: “It’s been a privilege to work alongside Ben and I’m honored to take over the leadership of this great company from him. I’m looking forward to channeling the pioneering spirit and passion of our incredible people to rise to the immense challenges, and grasp the opportunities presented by the energy transition.” 

Sawan is based in The Hague and has been a member of Shell’s executive committee for three years. He had been seen as the front-runner to replace van Beurden, according to earlier reports made by Reuters that van Beurden had reportedly been preparing to step down.

“I have great confidence in Wael as my successor. He is a smart, principled and dynamic leader, who I know will continue to serve Shell with conviction and dedication,” commented van Beurden of his successor.