Santhosh Shankar of Shell Receives AIChE’s Energy and Sustainability Award

This fall, ChEnected is introducing readers to AIChE’s 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients. These awards are AIChE’s highest honors, and candidates are nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted upon by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The prizes recognize outstanding achievements and world-class contributions across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors. 

The Energy and Sustainability Award is given to individuals or teams from industry who have accomplished significant energy savings, improved the sustainability of chemical processes, or developed innovative technologies for energy generation or delivery. The award is sponsored by Air Products.

Dr. Shankar’s recognition

The recipient of the 2021 Energy and Sustainability Award is Santhosh K. Shankar, strategy advisor at Shell Environmental Products.  

Dr. Shankar is being recognized “for his contributions to industry-academia partnership and technical research in the fields of direct air capture and carbon utilization pathways to fuels and chemicals.”

In 2016, Shankar initiated Shell’s direct air capture research program, which has contributed to radical improvements through progress in materials research and process innovation. He gathered industrial funding to advance the research, supporting his belief that direct air capture and carbon utilization would need to become an essential part of the solution if the global energy system is to reach a net-zero emission in alignment with the Paris Climate Accord. His research program has flourished, creating exemplary laboratory and modeling capability at Shell and its research partners.

Shankar and the other Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients will receive their prizes at the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, November 7–11 in Boston, Massachusetts. A video presentation of the awards will be available for viewing the following week at a virtual version of the Annual Meeting.

More about this year’s winner

In his role at Shell Environmental Products, Shankar works on market-based mechanisms for greenhouse gas emission reduction, carbon offsetting, and carbon removal strategies using engineered and nature-based solutions, as well as technical, policy, and regulatory levers that aid commercial deployment of decarbonization technologies. Previously at Shell, he gained experience in developing carbon capture and utilization technologies to manufacture synthetic net-zero-emission fuels and chemicals. He also established research collaborations with universities and external research partners.

Shankar has written articles detailing his work in carbon capture and utilization, technology deployment, computational flow modeling, simulations, and high-performance computing. Within AIChE, he has been involved in meeting programming and in the Transport and Energy Processes Division. He earned a B-Tech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, and his MS and PhD from Stanford University. He is also devoted to mentoring students to pursue careers in energy.

Shankar’s reflections on the award

Shankar says that the energy challenge we face means more than just providing clean energy. It means improving quality of life for all.

“Having spent a large portion of my life growing up in a developing country, the energy challenge is personal to me. I have experienced, firsthand, what a direct impact energy has on quality of life. To me, the energy transition not only means decarbonizing our current energy systems and bringing in cleaner forms of energy, but also discovering ways to improve energy access and providing energy to growing populations and to move humans out of energy poverty.” 

He credits, in part, his involvement with the AIChE community for mentoring him and fueling his ambition to respond, personally, to the energy challenge, with an eye on making a better future.  

“We are at a cusp in time where the future can simply not be an extrapolation from the past. Our actions in this decade — in changing the way we use and produce energy — will pave the way for the generations to come. It is an exciting time and a challenging proposition for budding chemical engineers, and to those who want to work in energy. Let us make progress, let us work together and let us make the future.” 

Stay in the know

In the weeks leading up to the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, ChEnected will feature the other 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients. Visit the ChEnected series regularly to meet all of this year’s honorees. Visit to see all award winners.