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Outcry as Shell and BP make billions on back of price rises BP Shell image

The Times: Outcry as Shell and BP make billions on back of price rises

Wednesday April 30, 2008
Robin Pagnamenta and David Robertson

Surging oil prices helped to boost profits at BP and Royal Dutch Shell to a combined record of £7.2 billion for the first quarter of the year.

Amid growing accusations of profiteering by big oil companies, it also emerged that BP had earned a one-off trading profit of $400 million (£203 million) by correctly betting on the direction of oil and gas prices.

The figures provoked an immediate outcry from campaign groups, which said it was a disgrace that at a time of increased public concern about climate change Shell and BP were earning their biggest profits, while compounding the problem of rising global carbon emissions.

A spokesman for the trade union Unite said that the profits were unacceptable and called for them to be used to improve pension provision for staff.

BP’s pre-tax profits surged 48 per cent in the first quarter to £3.3 billion while Shell increased its profits 12 per cent to a record £3.9 billion. The rising profits were driven by spiralling oil prices, which the companies have passed on to consumers in the form of higher petrol and diesel prices. Yesterday the price of crude oil was trading slightly below record highs of $120 a barrel.

Both Shell and BP’s figures were much higher than expected. Jason Kenney, an oil analyst at ING, described them as “blow-away numbers”.

Robin Oakley, from Greenpeace, said that said the results were “totally at odds” with the direction that both companies needed to go in.

Peter Voser, of Shell, whose total oil production rose from 3.509 million to 3.522 million barrels a day, said that the company was performing well but was increasingly having to explore in remote and costly areas such as the Arctic to tap new supplies. Such projects were driving up costs.

BP’s first-quarter result also beat expectations but production was flat at 3.913 million barrels a day. The company, which has a reputation as the industry’s leading trader, has started a restructuring programme to simplify management and cut costs.

BP also reported a large increase in profitability from its operations in the North Sea in the first quarter because of the high price of oil, rising 27 per cent to $923 million.

The price of petrol is continuing to rise this week because of supply concerns in Scotland, where the Grangemouth refinery was shut down for two days because of industrial action. The workers have now returned but it will take about three weeks to get the refinery, which produces 10 per cent of Britain’s petrol, back to full capacity.

The Automobile Association said that petrol prices had hit a national average of £1.098 a litre yesterday, equivalent to £4.99 a gallon.

Petrol is expected to pass the £5-a-gallon mark this week.

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest company, will also report this week. It is expected to have made the highest quarterly corporate profits in history. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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