Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Looking ahead to first quarter 2018 performance, Royal Dutch Shell said exploration and production earnings may be impacted by divestments.
Shell on Thursday reported earnings attributable to shareholders in the fourth quarter was $3.1 billion, about triple the level from the same period in 2016. That metric for the third quarter, however, was closer to $3.7 billion.
Shell is still trying to trim down and retool its operations after its 2015 mega merger with British energy company BG Group.
"With around $24 billion of divestments completed, and more than $6 billion announced or in advanced progress, we are close to completing our $30 billion divestment program," CEO Ben van Beurden said in his fourth quarter statement.
For its reserves, the company said acquisitions and divestment activity last year accounted for a net reduction of 1.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Earnings came in ahead of expectations, though RBC Capital Market said the 20 percent decline in cash flow from operations was disappointing.
"Unfortunately, resilient earnings do not appear to have translated into cash generation this quarter," it said in an emailed report.
The company said it realized an average price for Brent crude oil of $54 per barrel for the year. Brent was trading at around $69 per barrel early Thursday.
Shell on Wednesday declared a new oil discovery in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico about 200 miles southwest of Houston. That same day, it said it could be able to carry over that success to deep Mexican waters after winning nine blocks in an offshore auction, capping off sector reforms steered by outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
In an outlook for first quarter 2018, however, the company offered a mixed review on earnings from exploration and production.
"Compared with the first quarter 2017, upstream earnings are expected to be negatively impacted by a reduction of some 270 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day associated with completed divestments, and positively impacted by some 40 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day associated with lower maintenance activities."
Earnings could be supported by the 40,000 barrels of restored production in Nigeria, though Shell said the security situation there "remains sensitive."