Ben van Beurden, CEO

Introduction from the CEO

This Investors' Handbook provides an overview of our global operations, shows how Shell has performed over the last five years, and covers our plans for the future.

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Although 2019 was a tough year, Shell demonstrated its resilience by delivering credible results on several fronts.

Despite economic headwinds such as low oil and gas prices, limited global growth, and reduced chemicals and refining margins, during 2019 we continued to make good progress in building a world-class investment case.

Our cash flow from operating activities was strong compared with our industry peers, at $42.2 billion. We distributed more than $25 billion to shareholders: $15.2 billion in dividends, and $10.2 billion in share buybacks. As of February 20, 2020, we had delivered about $15 billion of our $25 billion share buyback programme, which began in 2018.

The economic headwinds did contribute to some negative factors in our financial performance. Gearing increased from 20% to 29% (equivalent to 25% on an IAS 17 accounting basis). Income was $16.4 billion, down from $23.9 billion in 2018. Earnings on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis were $15.8 billion, down from $24.4 billion in 2018.

Overall, though, Shell’s financial foundations remained strong. We improved the resilience and quality of our portfolio by making around $5 billion of divestments. We continued to show financial discipline by limiting our cash capital expenditure to $24 billion, at the lower end of the range that we said we would spend. This highlighted one of the crucial things that has put Shell on this path to success: capital efficiency. By systematically improving capital efficiency across our portfolio, we have been able to reduce costs safely and sustainably. The average unit development cost for our Upstream and Integrated Gas projects has decreased by more than half since the end of 2014. This allows us to do more for less.

I am, however, deeply saddened that seven people died while working for Shell in 2019. This is unacceptable. Each death inflicts unimaginable grief on the bereaved family. In Shell, work colleagues mourn. Every person lost is a tragedy. When it comes to safety, we have much more to do. We have responded by introducing a new approach which we will start to deploy from 2020 onwards, alongside our continuing efforts to review and improve accident prevention procedures wherever possible.

Our core oil and gas business delivered significant projects in 2019. The first shipment of liquefied natural gas left the Prelude floating liquefied natural gas facility off the coast of Australia. Production started at our Appomattox floating production system in the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to produce 175 thousand barrels of oil equivalent a day at its peak. We also invested for success in the future and built on Shell’s constructive approach to the greatest global challenge of our times: climate change.

Our strategy sets out three clear ambitions: to thrive in the energy transition, provide a world-class investment case, and sustain a strong societal licence to operate. In 2019, to help achieve all three ambitions, we refreshed our strategy to focus more strongly on developing our Power business.

We know the energy transition is unfolding, and we must be part of it if we are to thrive as a business. If the world is to tackle climate change, it must consume more of its energy in the form of electricity. This is a huge potential growth opportunity for Shell, one we are well positioned to seize. Shell has the brand, global presence, and retail and marketing expertise you need when buying and selling electricity and interacting with customers.

We are a worldwide supplier of natural gas, a cleaner alternative to coal for electricity generation. We are actively seeking to increase our investments in renewable power. In 2019 Shell acquired ERM Power, one of Australia’s leading commercial and industrial electricity retailers. We further enhanced our retail offering by introducing carbon-neutral driving. Motorists in the Netherlands and the UK can now offset their fuel emissions by having Shell purchase nature-based carbon credits on their behalf.

As we look forward to 2020 and beyond, we must be firm in our belief that our business strategy is sound and our financial foundations are strong.

We believe Shell’s underlying resilience will stand us in good stead for the challenges to come.

Ben van Beurden
Chief Executive Officer


Gas production facility (icon)
3,665 kboe/d

49% gas, 51% liquids

LNG sold

LNG carrier (icon)
74.45 million tonnes


Female employee (icon)

actual number of full-time employees


People around a globe (icon)

we operate in


Shell logo (icon)

in 50 out of 63 countries [A]

Dividend yield

Banknote on a plant (icon)

for RDSB London

[A] Source: Kantar Global Retail Tracker (GRT) – Shell analysis based on GRT, an independent survey conducted by Kantar across 63 markets in 2019.

Business overview

Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with 83,000 employees in more than 70 countries.

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We have expertise in the exploration, production, refining and marketing of oil and natural gas, and the manufacturing and marketing of chemicals.

We have expertise in the exploration, production, refining and marketing of oil and natural gas, and the manufacturing and marketing of chemicals.

We seek to create shareholder value by:

  • exploring for crude oil and natural gas worldwide;
  • developing new crude oil and natural gas supplies from major fields and extracting bitumen from oil sands;
  • cooling natural gas to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) and converting gas to liquids (GTL);
  • supplying and trading oil, gas and other energy-related products, such as electricity and carbon-emission rights; and
  • having a portfolio of refineries and chemical plants producing a wide range of products including gasoline, diesel, aviation and marine fuel, lubricants and petrochemicals.

The integration of our businesses is one of our competitive advantages, allowing for optimisations across our global portfolio.

Integrated Gas and New Energies

Integrated Gas manages LNG activities and the conversion of natural gas into GTL fuels and other products. It includes natural gas exploration and extraction, and the operation of upstream and midstream infrastructure necessary to deliver gas to market. It markets and trades natural gas, LNG, electricity and carbon-emission rights and also markets and sells LNG as a fuel for heavy-duty vehicles and marine vessels.

In New Energies, we are exploring emerging opportunities and investing in those where we believe sufficient commercial value is available. We focus on new fuels for transport, such as advanced biofuels, hydrogen and charging for battery-electric vehicles, and power, including from natural gas and low-carbon sources such as wind and solar.


Our Upstream organisation manages the exploration for and extraction of crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. It also markets and transports oil and gas, and operates infrastructure necessary to deliver them to market.


Our Downstream organisation manages different Oil Products and Chemicals activities as part of an integrated value chain that trades and refines crude oil and other feedstocks into a range of products that are moved and marketed around the world for domestic, industrial and transport use. The products we sell include gasoline, diesel, heating oil, aviation fuel, marine fuel, biofuel, lubricants, bitumen and sulphur. We also produce and sell petrochemicals for industrial use worldwide. Our Downstream organisation also manages Oil Sands activities (the extraction of bitumen from mined oil sands and its conversion into synthetic crude oil).

Projects & Technology

Our Projects & Technology organisation manages the delivery of our major projects and drives research and innovation to develop new technology solutions. It provides technical services and technology capability for our Integrated Gas, Upstream and Downstream activities. It is also responsible for providing functional leadership across Shell in the areas of safety and environment, contracting and procurement, wells activities and greenhouse gas (GHG) management.

Integrated Gas
Projects & Technology


  • 1. Exploring for oil and gas onshore and offshore

Development and extraction

  • 2. Developing onshore and offshore fields
  • 3. Producing conventional, deep-water and shale oil and gas
  • 4. Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it safely underground
  • 5. Extracting bitumen

Manufacturing and energy production

  • 6. Upgrading bitumen
  • 7. Refining oil into fuels and lubricants
  • 8.Producing gas-to-liquids (GTL) products
  • 9. Producing petrochemicals
  • 10. Producing biofuels
  • 11. Generating renewable power
  • 12.Producing liquefied natural gas (LNG)

Transport and trading

  • 13. Shipping gas to where it is needed
  • 14. Shipping oil to where it is needed
  • 15. Trading oil and gas
  • 16. Supply and distribution of LNG for transport applications
  • 17. Regasifying LNG
  • 18. Trading power

Sales and marketing

  • 19. Supplying domestic electricity
  • 20. Supplying products to businesses, including gas for cooking, heating and electrical power
  • 21. Progressing electric vehicle and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure
  • 22. Providing mobility solutions for customers, including fuels and lubricants
  • 23. Supplying aviation fuel

Technical and business services

  • 24. Researching and developing new technology solutions
  • 25. Managing the delivery of major projects
  • 26. Providing technical and supporting services


Shell’s purpose is to power progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions. Our strategy is to strengthen our position as a leading energy company by providing oil, gas and low-carbon energy products and services as the world’s energy system transforms.

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Safety and social responsibility are fundamental to our business approach. Shell will only succeed by working collaboratively with customers, governments, business partners, investors and other stakeholders.

Our strategy is founded on our outlook for the energy sector and the chance to grasp the opportunities arising from the substantial changes in the world around us. The rising standard of living of a growing global population is likely to continue to drive demand for energy for years to come. The world will need to find a way to meet this growing demand, while transitioning to a lower-carbon energy system to counter climate change. While liquid and gaseous fuels, including biofuels and hydrogen, will continue to be an important part of the energy mix, over time electricity needs to play a bigger part in the world if it is to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Technological advances and the need to tackle climate change mean there is a transition under way to a lower-carbon, multi-source energy system with increasing customer choice. We recognise that the pace and the path forward are uncertain and so require agile decision-making.

Strategic ambitions

Against this backdrop, we have the following strategic ambitions to guide us in pursuing our purpose:

  • to thrive in the energy transition by responding to society’s desire for more and cleaner, convenient and competitive energy;
  • to provide a world-class investment case. This involves growing organic free cash flow and increasing returns, all built upon a strong financial framework and resilient portfolio; and
  • to sustain a strong societal licence to operate and make a positive contribution to society through our activities.

The execution of our strategy is founded on becoming a more customer-centric and simpler, more streamlined organisation, focused on growing returns and organic free cash flow. By investing in competitive projects, delivering increases in cash flow from operations, and driving down costs, we are continually reshaping our portfolio to become a more resilient and focused company.

Our ability to achieve our strategic ambitions depends on how we respond to competitive forces. We continually assess the external environment – the markets and the underlying economic, political, social and environmental drivers that shape them – to evaluate changes in competitive forces and business models. We use multiple future scenarios to assess the resilience of our strategy. We regularly review the markets we operate in, assessing our competitive position by analysing trends and uncertainties, and the strengths and weaknesses of our traditional and non-traditional competitors. We maintain business strategies and plans that focus on actions and capabilities to create and sustain competitive advantage. We maintain a risk management framework that regularly assesses our response to, and risk appetite for, identified risk factors.

Strategic themes
Financial framework

CCS earnings

$16.5 billion

excl. identified items

Cash flow from operating activities

$42.2 billion

at an average $64/bbl Brent price

Cash capital expenditure

$23.9 billion

Free cash flow

$26.4 billion

Total dividends distributed

$15.2 billion

Share buybacks

$14.1 billion

completed in 2018-2019

Underlying operating expenses

$37.0 billion



Resilient cash flow generation [A]

$ billion

Resilient cash flow generation (in $ billion) – development from 2015 to 2019: Average Brent oil price ($/bbl): 2015: 52, 2016: 44, 2017: 54, 2018: 71, 2019: 64; Cash flow from operations excluding working capital movements: 2015: 25,075, 2016: 29,041, 2017: 37.5, 2018: 49,643, 2019:46,958 (bar chart)

Shareholder distributions

$ billion

Shareholder distributions (in $ billion) – development of cash dividend and share buybacks from 2015 to 2019 (bar chart)

CCS earnings

$ billion

CCS earnings (in $ billion) for Upstream, Integrated gas, Downstream and Corporate. Development from 2015-2019 (bar chart)

Cash capital expenditure

$ billion

Cash capital expenditure (in $ billion) – development from 2015 to 2020 (bar chart)

[A] Working capital movements in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (respectively): $4,735, $(8,426), $(2,250), $3,442 and $(4,779) (in million).

Read more in the Investors’ Handbook 2015-2019

Investors’ Handbook

This Investors' Handbook provides an overview of our operations around the world. It includes financial and operational data showing how Shell has performed over the last five years and outlines our plans for the future. The Investors' Handbook 2015-2019 was published April 15, 2020.

Investors’ Handbook
Company overview

This section provides an overview of the company, including information on the strategy, financial framework and key projects.

Company overview
Integrated Gas

Shell is a leading independent producer, marketer and trader of LNG and GTL products. The acquisition of BG accelerated our growth strategy by a decade, and helped make our Integrated Gas business a cash engine. With its differentiated and resilient portfolio, it grows with the gas market and delivers free cash flow. This business also manages our New Energies portfolio.

Integrated Gas

Our Upstream business explores for and extracts crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. It also markets and transports oil and gas, and operates the infrastructure necessary to deliver them to market. The Upstream business spans all three of Shell’s strategic-theme timescales. Conventional Oil and Gas is one of Shell’s cash engines, Deep water is one of our company’s growth priorities and our Shales business is themed as an emerging opportunity.


Our Downstream business is made up of a number of different Oil Products and Chemicals activities, part of an integrated value chain, that trades and refines crude oil and other feedstocks into a range of products which are moved and marketed around the world for domestic, industrial and transport use. The products we sell include gasoline, diesel, heating oil, aviation fuel, marine fuel, biofuel, lubricants, bitumen and sulphur. In addition, we produce and sell petrochemicals for industrial use worldwide.

Projects & Technology

Shell’s Projects & Technology (P&T) organisation delivers more than half of Shell’s annual capital investment programme and develops and deploys new technologies to increase the competitiveness of its assets. This includes the coordination of research and development (R&D) that lays the technological foundation for the future. P&T also provides Shell’s functional leadership for safety and the environment. It therefore helps ensure that neither people nor nature are harmed during the construction and operation of Shell’s facilities.

Projects & Technology
Corporate segment

The Corporate segment covers the non-operating activities supporting Shell. It comprises our holdings and treasury organisation, our self-insurance activities and our headquarters and central functions. All finance income and expense as well as related taxes are included in the Corporate segment earnings, rather than in the earnings of the business segments.

Corporate segment
World map

This section shows the location of our physical assets around the world.

World map

This section contains detailed five-year financial and operational data, as well as additional investor information.