Shell eyes return to growth as reserves jump

Shell eyes return to growth as reserves jump

London: Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it was planning a return to robust growth in oil and gas production after seven years of decline and unveiled strong reserves additions that should underpin longer-term growth aims. Europe’s largest oil company by market value said it was targeting output of 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) in 2012, up from 3.15 million in 2009 -- equivalent to an annual growth rate of 3.5%.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australia’s Arrow Energy Ltd said it was in “active discussions" with Shell and PetroChina over their joint $3 billion takeover offer.

Shell’s London-listed “A" shares were up 1.4% at 0936 GMT, outperforming a 0.75% rise in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index.

“It’s a very strong message," one analyst said, adding the output target was above his forecast.

The company previously said it expected production to be flat in 2010 before new projects ramp up in 2011 and 2012.

“We are moving into a delivery window across the next five years, and beyond that, we have a tremendous opportunity set for the 2015-2020 timeframe," chief executive Peter Voser said.

Italian rival Eni said on Friday it aimed to grow output by 2.5% per annum to 2013 while European number two BP Plc is targeting annual growth of 1-2%.

In its annual strategy statement, Shell also predicted rising production beyond 2012, underpinned by a new focus on exploration.

Voser said high-cost, infrastructure-led projects, such as Shell’s $18-19 billion gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar and multi-billion dollar oil sands projects in Canada, would in future only supplement the exploration effort.

Shell’s production strategy has been built around such large, technology-driven projects in recent years.

Nonetheless, Shell said it will have to spend $25-$30 billion/year out to 2014 to achieve its growth -- the largest capital investment or capex programme in the industry.

Reserves replacement success

The company said that last year it added new reserves equivalent to almost three times the amount of oil and gas it pumped.

Its reserves replacement rate of 288% compares with levels of 133% at industry leader Exxon Mobil and 129% at BP.

It is also a turnaround from the 98% Shell achieved in 2008 and the 17% recorded in 2007.

“This was the best year for exploration in a decade," the company said.

Shell’s focus on building production will also see it reduce its downstream footprint.

The company said it planned to exit 35% of its retail markets, and repeated plans to sell 15% of its world-wide refining portfolio.