The group said Sir Andrew Mackenzie, who was chief executive of miner BHP until 2019, will fill the role later this year.
The Glaswegian was already tipped as a potential new chairman when he joined Shell’s board in October.
Mackenzie will replace Chad Holliday, who steps down in May after six years in the role.
Mackenzie, who was knighted for services to business, science and technology, said: “It is a privilege to be appointed chair of this great company, particularly at such a pivotal time for the industry and wider society.
“I am honoured to succeed Chad, whose chairmanship of the board I have much admired and who I know will be warmly remembered.
“I have been delighted already to have played a part in the shaping of the compelling strategy that Shell has recently unveiled.”
Holliday said: “I am delighted to welcome Andrew as my successor.
“I have nothing but confidence in Shell’s bright future - the challenges of the past year only strengthened my conviction in the company as I watched colleagues across the business find strength to sustain vital energy supplies in the most exceptional circumstances.”
The group’s ambition to become “net zero” – slashing its climate change impact to nil – by 2050 means that Mackenzie will be in charge during a period of massive change at the company.
A former academic with more than 50 research papers to his name, as well as a past at the British Geological Society and as a Humboldt Fellow, he entered the world of business in the early 1980s.
After joining BP in 1983, Mackenzie spent the next 22 years with the company as part of teams that discovered oil fields in Norway and Indonesia, and later joined the oil giant’s finance team.
Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, said: “Chad’s first-class frontline business experience, tireless commitment to the highest standards and clear vision were all instrumental in making Shell the resilient business we have shown ourselves to be. We thank him for his leadership over the last decade.
“I am looking forward to working with Andrew. We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with a clear and distinct strategy that I believe will enable us to seize the opportunities presented by the energy transition. I cannot think of anyone better than Andrew to take this role.”
Last month, Shell said it had taken “decisive actions” after sinking to a huge $21.7 billion (£16bn) loss as oil prices and demand slumped amid the pandemic.
The group’s full-year deficit compared with profits of $15.8bn in 2019 and came after it was forced to slash the value of the oil in its fields last year as prices collapsed.
The firm has been making swingeing cost cuts to weather the crisis, announcing in September plans to axe between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs worldwide. In January, it emerged that it was cutting more than 300 jobs from its Aberdeen workforce.