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Shell’s CEO Sawan Laments Over US LNG Drama While Cashing in Billions

Posted by John Donovan: 3 Feb 24

In a twist that no one saw coming, Shell’s CEO Wael Sawan has spilled the tea on the latest soap opera in the LNG world, where Uncle Sam’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector is apparently losing its sparkle. This revelation came hot off the press during Shell’s glitzy earnings call, where Sawan played the part of a concerned corporate citizen worried about the “reliability” of American LNG, amidst a backdrop of legal tiffs and paused plant approvals. “I won’t get into the details of the legal proceedings,” he teased, leaving us all on the edge of our seats for the next episode.

Sawan’s lament centered around Venture Global LNG’s apparent oopsie in meeting its offtake commitments and President Joe Biden’s audacious move to hit the pause button on approving new U.S. liquefaction plants. Sawan mourned the erosion of confidence in the U.S. LNG saga, which, according to him, is a “real shame” considering the blockbuster potential it had.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sits on a throne of 18 approved yet unbuilt projects, dreaming of the 32 Bcf/d of export capacity glory days. As Sawan waxes poetic about lost opportunities, Shell reported a modest (if you can call it that) haul of $28.3 billion in adjusted earnings for 2023—a slight stumble from their 2022 windfall, attributed to “lower realized oil and gas prices, lower volumes and lower refining margins,” but thankfully cushioned by their savvy LNG trading.

As Shell toasts to its $23 billion returned to shareholders—because what’s a few billion among friends—Sawan highlighted the company’s runway model-thin, agile approach to business. “The most significant contribution in the short term comes from focusing on where we play,” he quipped, hinting at Shell’s latest fashion of portfolio simplification and de-bureaucratization.

CFO Sinead Gorman, not to be outdone, dazzled with plans for a $3.5 billion buyback program, because, in the end, it’s all about keeping the shareholders in designer dividends.

As Shell struts into 2024 with $43.5 billion in net debt, a smidgen less than last year, Sawan reassures us they’re still the belle of the LNG ball. With plans to sprinkle $10 billion-$15 billion on low-carbon energy solutions by 2025, Shell is seemingly on a greenish path, having already slashed more than 60% of the emissions needed to hit their 2030 target.

So, as Shell navigates the stormy seas of the energy transition, Sawan assures us they’re all about “delivering more value with less emissions.” But as the curtain falls on Shell’s performance, one can’t help but wonder if it’s all just a well-orchestrated play in the grand theatre of corporate greenwashing. Only time will tell if Shell’s sustainability soliloquy ends in a standing ovation or rotten tomatoes.

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