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Shell Investors Seek Review of Oil-Sands Operations


By Fred Pals

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) — Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company, faces shareholder scrutiny of the investment risks at its Canadian oil-sands projects as environmental groups object to development plans.

A coalition of 142 shareholders have requested a review of the risks, in a resolution to be addressed at Shell’s annual meeting in May, according to FairPensions, which is coordinating the investor campaign. A statement from FairPensions cited a likely increase in carbon costs and potential damage to Shell’s reputation from environmental degradation as some of the risks.

Shell expects the resolution to be on the agenda for the May 18 meeting, it said today in an e-mailed statement. The shareholders behind the request represent about 0.15 percent of the outstanding shares, while oil sands represent 8.4 percent of Shell’s proven reserves. Shell will have until the shareholders’ meeting in 2011 to complete its review, the coalition said.

Energy companies have begun to extract heavy oil from tar sands in countries such as Canada and Venezuela as advances in technology and higher crude prices make production feasible. Some have faced protests from environmental activists over the release of greenhouse gases from such projects. In September, Greenpeace forced Shell to suspend 155,000 barrels of daily production at the Muskeg River Mine in Alberta after 25 demonstrators evaded guards to chain themselves to equipment.

Boost Emissions

Greenpeace has said it takes three to five times more energy to extract oil from sands than it does to produce conventional crude. Planned tar-sands projects in Alberta will increase greenhouse-gas output to as much as 140 million tons a year by 2020, about the same as Belgium’s current emissions, according to the organization.

Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser told a Calgary audience on Sept. 11 that the sands emit only 5 to 15 percent more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production projects.

Shell is betting on multibillion-dollar oil-sands ventures in Canada and other so-called unconventional projects such as a gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar to boost output, which has fallen for six years. Higher costs and lower crude prices last year limited development of oil sands, which are more expensive to exploit than conventional deposits, Voser said in October.

Shell, based in The Hague, has delayed an application for regulatory approval for its Carmon Creek oil-sands development in Canada, having already postponed the second-phase expansion of its Canadian Athabasca project because of rising construction costs.

The International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook in November that “oil-sands projects in Canada account for the bulk of the suspended oil capacity” resulting from the global economic slowdown.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Pals in Amsterdam at [email protected]

Last Updated: January 19, 2010 07:41 EST and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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