Fukushima nuclear disaster lifts Shell profit

Spiralling oil prices and strong demand for gas after the Fukushima nuclear disaster helped Shell double its profits between July and September.

Europe's largest oil company reported profits of £4.5 billion, up from £2.2 billion, at a time of continued fuel price misery for British motorists.

Shell has benefited from a 48% rise in oil prices - partly caused by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa - as well as a 2% increase in production, excluding asset sales.

Natural gas prices have risen nearly a third after the Fukushima nuclear disaster boosted demand as Japan sought alternative sources of power.

Today's figures, which were in line with City expectations, come two days after BP reported a three-fold increase in profits to £3.2 billion for the three months to September.

The Hague-based group said its investments in big new projects including in Canada and Qatar were paying off, while the result was also boosted by stronger refining margins. It plans 20 new investments between 2011 and 2014.

Earnings at its downstream business, which includes its petrol stations, increased by 24% to $1.8 billion (£1.1 billion).

Chief executive Peter Voser also said that although Shell had already met its target of $5 billion (£3.1 billion) of disposals this year, including the £750 million sale of Stanlow refinery in Cheshire, sales of "non-core" assets would continue.

Shares rose 0.7% today. Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said the results were a reminder of why some investors adhere to the adage "never sell Shell".

He added: "The update may be the cause of some admiring glances from arch rival BP, currently in the midst of its own transformation."