SHELL chief executive Ben van Beurden is preparing to stand down next year.

The oil and gas giant, which has been making record profits this year amid the surge in energy prices that has followed Russia’s assault on Ukraine, has identified four internal candidates as potential successors.

The shortlist has been narrowed down to Wael Sawan, the company’s head of integrated gas and renewables, and Huibert Vigeveno, head of downstream refining, according to a report by Reuters, citing two company sources, this morning.

The report also pinpointed Sinead Gorman, recently appointed chief financial officer, and Zoe Yujnovich, head of upstream, as possible candidates.

Shell has declined comment, Reuters said.

Mr van Beurden, 64, has led Shell since 2014. He originally joined the company in 1983, after graduating with a masters degree in chemical engineering from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “After yesterday’s surprise departure of Reckitt Benckiser chief executive Laxman Narasimhan, it looks as if another FTSE 100 company is poised for a change at the top as Shell’s Ben van Beurden is reportedly preparing to step down.

“A key feature of his near decade at the helm has been a focus on natural gas, including the big acquisition of BG Group in 2016.

“Arguably this strategy has been vindicated by recent events which have revealed the importance of gas for energy security and as a way of transitioning from more polluting fuels to renewables.

“While there has been considerable volatility in the interim, ultimately since van Beurden took over at the beginning of 2014 he has delivered a total return to shareholders of 45.1 per cent.

“Given this period encompassed an oil price crash very early in his tenure and a global pandemic, this is not too shabby.

“His successor faces a tough task though, with regulatory pressure likely to be a key theme. Internal appointments are rumoured to be in the running, befitting an organisation which has often looked inwards when planning a succession process.”