Shell Australia acquires carbon farming business Select Carbon

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Royal Dutch Shell has announced another strategic investment that will bring it closer to reducing the carbon footprint of its fossil fuel business. Under a deal that marks the company’s entrance into the global carbon offset market, Shell’s Australia unit will fully acquire Perth-based carbon farming specialist Select Carbon to help its customers reduce or offset the emissions generated through the use of its oil and gas products.

In a practice commonly referred to as carbon farming, Select Carbon uses agricultural and land management practices that capture carbon in vegetation and soils or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon credits generated through its projects are offered for sale through the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund and other markets, creating an additional revenue stream for farmers and landowners. To date, the company has developed a portfolio of over 70 projects covering about 9 million hectares across different ecosystems and agricultural uses, including in Australia’s diverse rangelands.

“Select Carbon believes joining Shell will more thoroughly capture new opportunities in land management and carbon sequestration. Combined, we have the experience and resources for large-scale nature-based solutions that bring economic and community benefits to regional Australia,” said Dean Revell, CEO of Select Carbon. “Our collective immediate actions, and those over the next few decades, will be critical to ensure liveable, productive and sustainable environments for generations to come.”

The Anglo-Dutch power company has already made a string of renewables commitments in Australia and elsewhere, but the latest move will be the company’s first acquisition globally for its Nature-Based Solutions business, which aims to invest in natural ecosystems to reduce emissions and capture more CO2 while benefiting biodiversity and local communities. It will contribute to Shell’s ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy by 2050 or sooner.

“Select Carbon has a team of highly skilled professionals with strong technical expertise and an established national landowner network. Together with Shell’s global resources, this combination will accelerate the growth of carbon farming in Australia,” said Shell Australia chairman Tony Nunan. “The scale of Australia’s rangelands, ecological diversity and integrity of intact primary forests make this market a natural choice for Shell’s first acquisition globally for our Nature-Based Solutions business and to further scale Shell’s investment in this area here in Australia.”

As it continues the pursuit of its “new energies” strategy, Australia remains a priority market for Shell’s investment due to “a compelling combination of strong growth in renewables, adjacency of gas as a complementary energy source, and customer demand for low-carbon energy solutions”. Previously, Shell snapped up a 49% stake in Esco Pacific, one of the biggest Australian utility-scale solar developers, and made a foray into the electricity market with a $617 million acquisition of commercial and industrial power provider ERM Power. The company has also started construction of its first utility-scale PV project – a 120 MW solar farm near Wandoan to supply its QGC onshore gas operations in the north of Queensland.

Shell’s moves in Australia underline the company’s vision for a world where solar meets the largest portion of primary energy demand as soon as 2050. Last year, the oil giant released a strategy for the energy transition to ensure the resilience of its portfolio and later announced plans to boost annual spending on renewables and low-carbon energies to between $2 billion and $3 billion by 2025. The company’s plan is to become the world’s biggest electricity company by the 2030s.

In some of its earlier clean energy investments, Shell bought German battery storage manufacturer Sonnen, snapped up a 44% stake in U.S.-based Silicon Ranchtook over U.K. energy firm First Utility and acquired a 49% stake in Singapore-based Cleantech Solar. Its latest transaction is expected to be completed before the end of the year and is subject to Australian regulatory approval.

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