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Shell boss highlights potential of North Sea and defends oil giant’s response to climate change

ROYAL Dutch Shell boss Ben van Beurden has said he sees no reason for the oil giant to curb investment in the North Sea amid concern about climate change insisting it has a key role to play in tackling the problem.

The Anglo-Dutch firm has come under attack from climate change campaigners who have disrupted operations off Scotland and blockaded the company’s North Sea headquarters in Aberdeen.

However, Mr van Beurden said the transition to net zero carbon emissions could not be achieved without the expertise of oil and gas giants such as Shell.

The company reckons it can support the development of clean energy systems while helping reduce emissions associated with the production and consumption of oil and gas that will be required to meet the needs of consumers and industry.

“We believe we have a mission to help sectorial decarbonisation and we believe therefore we have a legitimate position at the table and we will make sure not only that our voice is heard but our actions speak louder than words,” Mr van Beurden told journalists.

He Insisted that Shell wants to be a force for good in changing the global energy system over to a lower carbon version.

The Dutch executive made clear that he felt attacks on Shell were unjustified, suggesting calls for people to dump the shares of oil companies that are listed on stock markets were misguided.

Extinction Rebellion activists block entrance to Edinburgh fund manager’s HQ

Regarding the energy transition, he said: “It can not be done just by curtailing supply; it definitely can’t be done by demonising 10% of supply that is publicly listed. Ultimately it is a system challenge of unimaginable proportions that can only be done if we have collaboration at levels not yet displayed.”

Mr van Beurden added: “If you believe that it can be done just by letting financial markets do their piece or by incentivising a few tech companies or a few start-ups then I would say, almost, dream on.”

Asked whether concern about climate change and the actions of protesters in Scotland had made Shell less likely to invest in the North Sea, he said: “We do not see a reason to change our investment in the North Sea. It is a good resource province that still has many good resources to give.”

He added: “We have to take a very clear view on how we make sure that the investments that we make have, in addition to having a cost competitive profile, also a very carbon competitive profile.”

Shell approves North Sea project amid growing interest in area 

The prospect of the UK leaving the European Union today does not seem to be a big concern for Shell. Mr van Beurden said Brexit was an issue of “second or third order” importance. It is expected to have little impact on Shell’s operations.

Shell made deep cuts in its North Sea operations in response to the oil price plunge from 2014. It has sold a raft of assets in recent years under plans to highgrade its portfolio to focus on the best long-term prospects.These include big fields developed West of Shetland.

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Shell has approved some North Sea projects amid the partial recovery in the crude price since late 2016.

However, profits plunged in the latest quarter following a renewed fall in oil and gas prices in recent months in response to concerns about the outlook for the global economy.

Shell made $2.9 billion (£2.2bn) profit in the three months to December 31 on the standard current cost of supplies measure. That was down 48 per cent from $5.7bn last time.

Shell still plans to return $25 billion to investors through share buy backs, under a programme launched in 2018.

But the company is set to slow the pace of delivery amid concerns about macro-economic conditions. It plans to buy back $1bn shares in the three months to April 27, against $2.8bn in the quarter to December 31.

Full year profits fell to $16.5bn from $21.4bn.

Shell held its fourth quarter dividend at 47 cents per share.

Royal Dutch Shell A shares closed down 93p at £20.38.

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