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Shell Looking At Ways Ways To Improve US Gas Profits

FEBRUARY 2, 2012

— Shell aiming to exploit difference in price between U.S. gas and LNG, GTL

— Investment in U.S. gas exploration to be at lower end of planned spending

— Company to make further moves into oil-rich shales

By Alexis Flynn


LONDON (Dow Jones)–Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) is actively looking at ways to improve the profits it gets from U.S. natural gas, including seeking out land for a potential gas-to-diesel plant, the company said Thursday.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant has invested heavily in U.S. shale gas assets, but new extraction techniques have led to abundant supply. Prices have fallen to a decade low and risk driving up the costs of Shell’s recent shale acquisitions. By contrast, the oil price has risen some 40% in the last two years.

“We have been looking for ways to leverage Shell’s strong resource position in North America,” said Chief Executive Peter Voser.

Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said Shell was examining plans to develop the gas into products that are more closely linked to oil prices, such as liquefied natural gas for export and gas-to-liquids technology that turns gas into a transport fuel.

He said Shell was even seeking out land to build possible sites to build the types of facilities needed but cautioned that at a cost of “around $5 billion to $10 billion a project, we have to be selective.” Shell completed a giant gas-to-diesel project in Qatar last year, but its final cost was in the region of around $18 billion, rather than the $5 billion initially estimated in 2003.

Voser also said Thursday the company would broaden its focus to include oil-rich shale, with the company planning to spend $1 billion on liquid-rich shales alone in 2012, with production from the source expected to account for as much as 250,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by 2017. By contrast, Voser said Shell’s expected outlay on U.S. gas exploration would be at the low end of its spending range given the weak pricing environment.

“Spending could be in the range of $5 billion and $6 billion per year on a worldwide basis over the next few years, including exploration, of which $3 billion to $5 billion could be North American gas plays,” said Voser.

The depressed U.S. natural gas price has compelled some U.S. firms to cut back on drilling. However, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the country’s largest natural-gas producer, said Wednesday it had no intention of curtailing its output.

-By Alexis Flynn, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 207842 9471, [email protected]

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