The surge in profits that Royal Dutch Shell announced on Thursday brought to a close a strong set of third-quarter results from the world’s biggest oil and gas groups, where higher crude prices and lower costs are finally bringing recovery after three years of financial pain. Shell’s forecast-beating 47 per cent increase in earnings to $4.1bn followed similar performances from BP, Total, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
At the same time, Brent crude, the international benchmark, has risen to more than $60 a barrel for the first time since 2015 as rising demand begins to outstrip supplies after the deepest downturn for a generation. However, just as important has been the sharp spending cuts that have created a leaner industry capable of generating more cash at current prices than companies did before the crash from more than $100 a barrel in 2014.
“All the majors are proving they can work at $50 oil, which the market was sceptical could happen this quickly,” said Rohan Murphy, energy analyst at Allianz Global Investors. Shell’s turnround has been stronger than most, helped by new production and cost synergies from its $50bn acquisition of BG Group, completed last year. At an average oil price of $52 a barrel, Shell generated cash flow of $10.1bn in the three months to the end of September, enough to cover capital expenditure and the dividend for a fifth successive quarter.