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Elephants, tigers and a gust of hot air: Shell ploughs billions into finding more oil and gas

Daily Telegraph (UK): Elephants, tigers and a gust of hot air: Shell ploughs billions into finding more oil and gas

Thursday 23 June 2005

City comment

Edited by Neil Collins

(Filed: 23/06/2005)

Everyone knows the old joke about how many elephants can you fit into a Mini (two in the front, and two in the back). Yesterday Jeroen van de Veer added his own Dutch twist by pondering how many big cats you can fit into an elephant. He didn’t know the answer, but he’s determined to find out.

Shell is recovering its poise, if not yet the one in four of its oil reserves it lost last year, and plans to boost production by over 30pc between now and 2015. To do this, it needs to find 10 elephant projects (at over $1billion each) and many more big cat prospects (over 100m barrels). Since they may be in awkward places run by tinpot dictators, Shell is starting charm academies, so its executives can learn how to get the best deals out of them.

It’s nodding to the bunny-huggers, too, promising to hire a Mr CO2 to advise on what to do after the oil is burnt.

Mr Van der Veer has grown into the top job since last year’s crisis. The future is MUPD, he gushes: More Upstream, Profitable Downstream. The fact that most of these initiatives probably tripped off Lord Browne’s tongue at BP in the 1990s shows how far Van the Man has dragged Shell over the past year.

Next week shareholders will vote through the reconstruction of Shell Transport and Royal Dutch Petroleum, only 98 years after the union was agreed. It’s a pity, then, that 2,000 British holders of Royal Dutch stock will have to pay tax on a paper capital gain. It’s pretty shabby, and makes a mockery of Shell’s claim to be treating all shareholders alike. Like the investment in wind power won’t pay its way for at least another 10 years, it looks like so much hot air.

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