Shell chief braces market for Q2 results

SHELL chief Ben van Beurden has cautioned against expecting a V-shaped recovery in the oil market, saying energy demand will be lower even when the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Shell chief braces market for Q2 results Shell chief braces market for Q2 results Shell chief braces market for Q2 results Shell chief braces market for Q2 results Shell chief braces market for Q2 results

“It will be a major number,” - Royal Dutch Shell chief Ben van Beurden

Mark Tilly


Mark Tilly

Speaking to IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin overnight, van Beurden spoke of the massive hit oil and gas companies have taken due to the downturn, the companies' transition plans and what he sees for the future of the energy market. 

However he warned against making overarching predictions, noting "it's probably too soon to say", but added that the knock on effects the pandemic was having on oil and gas demand would likely be felt for years to come. 

"In general, energy demand and certainly mobility demand will be lower even when this crisis more or less [is] behind us," he said. 

"Will it mean that it will never recover? It's probably too early to say. But it will have a permanent knock for years."

Shell advised last month it expects impairments of between $15 billion and $22 billion in the second quarter, due to the oil price crash and low Henry Hub gas prices. 

Under its revision, the company sees Brent oil stabilising at around US$35 a barrel for 2020, but said prices would increase over the next year to $40/bbl. Brent could rise back to $60/bbl by 2023, according to Shell's outlook.

Van Beurden said the supermajor was still working on what exactly the write-down amount is before it releases its Q2 results. 

"It will be a major number," he said. 

"Investors understand that if you indeed lower your outlook for oil and gas prices, refining margins particularly, but also some other margins, then of course some assets that were already under pressure in terms of their valuation on the balance sheet could be at risk of being impaired."

The company said recently its integrated gas business would account for impairments of up to US$9 billion - primarily due to costs associated with QGC and the Prelude FLNG projects in Australia.

The announcement came just after BP announced it was writing down up to US$17.5 billion of assets thanks to the pandemic, its net-zero ambitions, and a lower long term oil price which it revised down to US$55 per barrel from $70/bbl. 

Shell has announced similar net-zero targets earlier this year, with van Beurden saying its ambitions meant a roughly two-thirds reduction in carbon intensity in its product portfolio and ensure, from wellhead to end use, all of its products would be zero emissions by 2050if it wanted to meet a 1.5C scenario. 

"It is indeed a wide-ranging ambition. But it's the only way that a company like us can stand up and say we are Paris compliant," he said. 

While he noted oil and gas would continue to play a "significant" role, he noted the company will have to become an integrated power player with positions in electricity generation that would predominantly come from green technologies. 

"As that system evolves and needs to attract billions, hundreds of billion, if not trillions of dollars of investment, that investment is only going to come forward if attractive returns are to be made," he said. 

"We want to not pass up on the biggest thing in energy in the future that is going to be around, which is electricity."

He also noted hydrogen was rapidly coming into play in energy transition policy, but he personally didn't see it becoming the dominant gas within the next five years. 

"But I do believe that those companies who set themselves up to succeed in that area and can make the right type of investments and can seed it and develop the hydrogen markets of the future are going to be the long-term winners and we have every intention to be just that."