Oil and gas giant Shell on Thursday posted record first quarter profits of $9.65bn, far exceeding analysts’ forecasts. This comes as increases in fuel and liquified natural gas (LNG) trading offset falling earnings as energy prices declined.

Company analysts predicted adjusted earnings of $8bn, according to Reuters. Adjusted EBITDA came in at $21.4bn, with the company citing improved operational performance and lower underlying operating expenses as key to sustained profits.

Lowered global natural gas prices caused the company’s adjusted earnings from its gas assets to drop by 18% to $4.9bn, compared with the same period last year. However, this was largely offset by a 139% leap in profits from its chemicals and refined products to $1.8bn, a company statement said.

Shell kept its dividend unchanged at $0.2875 per share. It bought back $19bn in shares in January and February, almost doubling 2019’s yearly total.

In March, new CEO Wael Sawan split up the company’s renewable power business, embedding operations relating to sustainable energy, such as wind and solar power, within the regional divisions of Shell Energy. The move came after Sawan signalled a renewed focus on fossil fuels, telling the Wall Street Journal: “I fundamentally believe in the role of oil and gas for a long, long time to come.”

A continued “profiteering bonanza”

This year’s stronger-than-expected profits top the company’s earnings for the same period last year, which stood at $9.13bn. They also stand at more than triple 2021’s Q1 results, although these remained suppressed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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By GlobalData

Several other oil and gas companies also reported first-quarter profits exceeding expectations, including giants BP and Exxon Mobil, as well Norwegian rival Equinor. General secretary of the UK’s second largest trade union Unite union said to the Guardian that Shell and BP’s latest profits were “continuing the profiteering bonanza”, referring to Big Oil’s record record-smashing earnings posted for 2022 amid a global energy crisis..

“The scale of profiteering displayed today by Shell and earlier this week BP is one of the corporate scandals of our times. And this is practically untouched by Rishi Sunak’s so-called windfall tax.” This refers to the UK’s Energy Profits Levy tax, introduced in May 2022. Oil industry body OEUK has said that the levy acts as a “massive deterrent to investment”.