• Major oil and gas companies rein in planned expenditure in response to COVID-19

    Date posted:

    • Post Author

      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Shell and Total have responded to the COVID-19 coronavirus and associated oil price crisis by reducing expenditure in a range of ways – postponing plans to buy back shares, reducing planned capital expenditure, and slimming down on operational costs. Brent crude is currently at a 17-year low amidst what is expected to be a sustained period of low demand and high production, as covered in the last edition of the Combustion Industry News. Faced with this situation, Shell has said it will not buy back US$25 billion (€23.2 billion) of shares as planned this year, while reducing capital expenditure from US$25 billion to US$20 billion, while also trimming operating costs by US$3-4 billion (€2.78-3.71 billion) per year as compared to 12 months ago. Even so, these expenditure reductions will not make up for lost revenue since January, though the company is determined to push through the crisis. Chief executive Ben van Beurden told reporters that the “combination of steeply falling oil demand and rapidly increasing supply may be unique, but Shell has weathered market volatility many times in the past”. For its part, Total will suspend the remaining US$1.45 billion of its share buyback program for the year, and reduce capital spending by 20% to less than US$15 billion. Like Shell, it will also lose money despite reining in expenditure. CEO Patrick Pouyanné said that the company will be using its “solid balance sheet of low levels of debt”. One gets the impression from these statements that both Mr van Beurden and Mr Pouyanné believe the market will have improved considerably after this year – that is, economic activity will significantly recover after this year. Other oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP have also announced they will cut expenditure.