Shell diverting LNG to Japan to help offset energy supply drop; lifts oil output targets

AP Business Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 11:52 AM

AMSTERDAM - Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Tuesday it plans to divert liquefied natural gas and fuel oil to Japan to help replace energy sources damaged in last week's earthquake and tsunami.

Shell, Europe's largest publicly listed oil company, also said it planned to boost its oil production to 3.7 million barrels per day by 2014, with CEO Peter Voser vowing that a "wave of new production" will continue.

Voser said Shell's refining assets in Japan were not damaged in Friday's disaster but it was too early to say how much assistance the government wants and Shell can give. Major LNG companies need to cooperate on rerouting planned shipments and it is not clear how much capacity in Japan can be used to generate electricity from LNG.

The country may in the meantime use fuel oil or crude oil power plants that are only slightly damaged. Voser said LNG diversions could lead to price increases in Europe in the short term.

Shell is not planning for scenarios in which global demand or prices for oil and gas decline on a long-term basis. Growing populations, improving living standards and a lag in investment mean that energy prices are still headed up, Voser said.

Shell's new output target compared with production in 2010 of just 3.34 million barrels of oil and equivalents, which was up from 3.14 million in 2009 thanks to heavy investments in places such as Russia's Sakhalin Island and offshore Qatar, both LNG projects.

Voser said Shell had made mistakes around the turn of the century, when it was pumping more than 4 million barrels of oil per day, not so much because of the major accounting scandal it suffered - in which managers were caught overestimating proven reserves - but instead because executives at the time hadn't spent enough on new capacity.

He warned an oil company can cut costs too far and enter a shrinking phase with limited investment and financing options. That won't happen on his watch, he told reporters during an exposition on the company's strategic plans for the coming year and beyond.

"We're 'back' now, and I can tell you we are not going back to where we were 10 years ago," he said.

Shell's annual report released Tuesday said the company added more to proved reserves than it pumped in 2010, and now has more than 14 billion barrels of proved reserves - enough for an estimated 11 years of operations.

Voser said the company plans $100 billion in capital spending in 2011-2014 to continue growing.

The company cited a list of 20 projects under construction and another 30 under consideration that will take it through 2020.

Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry gave a quick breakdown of some planned investments, including $5 billion into heavy oil projects in places like Canada and Oman, $12 billion in "tight" gas and oil exploration in the U.S. and Brazil, and $20 billion each into deep water development projects and integrated gas facilities.

The company is planning for oil prices of $60-$80 - well below current rates - and said the company would be able to support investment plans of $25-$27 billion per year and still maintain $10 billion in annual dividend payouts with oil at $50 per barrel.

In February Shell reported full year 2010 net profit of $20.1 billion, up from $12.5 billion in 2009, as production rose, inventory values increased, and refining operations improved.

Voser said the company plans to cut $1 billion in costs from its "downstream," or refining and chemicals operations this year, though employment will remain about flat companywide at around 93,000, after 7,000 jobs were cut last year.

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