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Reuters: Shell reserves show shift from oil to gas

Mon Apr 2, 2007 11:51AM BST
By Tom Bergin

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell pumped twice as much oil as it found last year, forcing the company to rely on traditionally lower-margin natural gas and oil sands to boost its reserves.

Figures issued on Monday echoed a trend across the industry as resource holders increasingly shun the oil majors.

A spokesman said on Monday that Shell’s (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) reserve replacement ratio (RRR) — the extent to which reserves additions matched output — was a healthy 158 percent, well ahead of the 100 percent level oil companies usually target.

However, Shell’s 20-F U.S. regulatory filing showed natural gas accounted for over 60 percent of the total, or 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), compared to a crude-biased oil and gas production total of 1.3 billion barrels.

Additions of reserves of crude oil and non-gas liquids accounted for only 367 million barrels, compared to daily crude production of over 2 million barrels per day.

Shell added more reserves from its growing oil sands operation in Canada than of conventional crude.

Shell’s experience echoes that of Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which has relied heavily on its natural gas projects in Qatar and elsewhere for its reserves additions in the past two years.

Many other oil companies have failed to match their production with new reserves additions in recent years even including gas finds.

The difficulty in adding new crude reserves reflects a growing desire on the part of resource-holding nations to keep crude production in the hands of state-controlled oil companies.

The Western oil majors’ technical expertise in production and export of natural gas — a more complicated process — means they are still sought as partners.

However, analysts fear countries like Russia may only invite foreign companies into gas projects until domestic, state-controlled companies have mastered techniques such as liquefying natural gas for export by ship.

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