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Shell ponders reserves approval from US

Financial Times: Shell ponders reserves approval from US

“forced to cut its overall level of proved reserves by more than 20 per cent in January after years of overbooking”

By James Boxell

Jul 17, 2004

Royal Dutch/Shell may need to seek approval from US regulators on whether it can book reserves from a $5bn (£2.9bn) natural gas project in Qatar, the Dutch-English energy group said yesterday.

The company was forced to cut its overall level of proved reserves by more than 20 per cent in January after years of overbooking.

It has been hoping that the Qatar gas-to-liquids (GTL) project would help it make up some of the shortfall.

The booking of reserves from Qatar is potentially contentious because Shell and other international companies setting up similar projects in the country are getting access to the “feedstock” natural gas from the government at a relatively cheap price.

The gas is processed into a liquid form to produce a cleaner form of diesel fuel.

Some analysts have sought clarity on whether companies can categorise such gas as part of their proved reserves, although DeGolyer and MacNaughton, a US consultant with expertise in the area, said the feedstock gas could be included.

Shell already operates a GTL project in Malaysia but the situation is clearer there because the field that supplies the gas is fully operated and controlled by Shell.

Exxon Mobil, which announced its own $7bn GTL project in Qatar this week, has told analysts that it will be able to book the reserves from Qatar.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices the booking of reserves by international oil and gas companies, yesterday declined to comment on whether the Qatar GTL projects could be classed as reserves.

However, it is understood that the SEC tries to look at each project on a case-by-case basis before deciding whether there is “reasonable certainty” that those reserves can be produced.

ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhilips and Sasol of South Africa are also planning to spend billions of dollars on similar GTL projects in Qatar.

Shell said yesterday: “Booking of GTL reserves is an untested area, which is subject to a current internal review. Prior to making any booking decisions, we expect to consult with external parties, which may include direct communication with the SEC.”

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd

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