Still, Shell’s Arctic misadventures stand out.
After purchasing licenses for $2.1 billion in the Chukchi sea off Alaska’s coast in 2008, Shell began preliminary drilling in the summer of 2012.
But it was unable to get far after difficulties deploying an oil containment system it had on standby in the event of a spill. Then was forced to retreat because of approaching winter ice.
Then one of its rigs was damaged while being transported on Dec. 31, 2012, and no drilling took place in 2013.
CFO Simon Henry said Thursday Shell wrote around $1 billion off the value of its Alaskan business in 2013.
“The group’s exploration near the North Pole cost billions of dollars and generated reams of negative press - yet not a single drop of oil has been pumped” said Garry White, Chief Investment Correspondent at British brokerage Charles Stanley.
“Like the mining sector, capital discipline has been lacking at the major oil groups and there is pressure from shareholders to cut back investment to improve cash flows,” he said. “Shell appears to be listening.”
Van Beurden said Shell will cut spending by $9 billion this year and is targeting $15 billion in asset sales.
Investors generally cheered the company’s plans, and shares were up 2 percent at 26.27 euros in early Amsterdam trading.
Van Beurden’s strategy “is pretty much what we believe the market wanted to hear,” said Investec analyst Neill Morton in a note.
But Morton predicted further writedowns of Shell’s North American shale assets.
Shell’s reported fourth quarter net profit of $1.78 billion (130 billion euros), down 74 percent on the $6.73 billion reported a year earlier. The big fall was due to higher production costs, lower production, and worse refining margins. The swing was also exaggerated by one-off items during the two periods. Production was down 5 percent to 3.25 million barrels per day.