Shell CEO Peter Voser told CNBC he doesn't expect a major recovery in natural gas prices in the U.S., after the Nymex-traded futures contract rebounded 24 percent from a year ago to $3.23 per million British thermal units.
"If I look at the macro in terms of gas prices in the U.S., I don't see big changes in 2013. I think it'll take a little bit longer until it comes back to a range that we think should be around $3 to $5 or $4 to 6 -- where most projects would make sense," Peter Voser told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."
Natural gas prices in the U.S. have tumbled from their record high of just over $13 as the shale-gas boom has created a supply glut.
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Voser said Shell had switched some rigs over to focus on the more profitable "tight oil", a process whereby oil companies extract oil from shale rocks rather than gas.
"What we did in 2012 was to switch our rigs over to "tight-oil," or what you call liquid-rich shale, in order to push that production - so we actually left 2012 with 50,000 barrels daily production of light tight-oil," Voser said. "We are switching over to push the oil side more than the gas."
"If prices do recover we can always put more investments there in order to get gas production up again," he added.
The oil and gas giant reported fourth quarter profit of $5.582 billion, less than a Reuters estimate of $6.2 billion. Shares fell 1.4 percent in morning trading in Europe.
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The Shell (London Stock Exchange: RDSA-GB) CEO told CNBC that there were some "negatives" that weighed on the earnings, but he said the company was on track in its four-year journey to deliver a 30 to 50 percent cashflow growth.
"We had a strong performance in downstream, the best fourth quarter since 2006...but there were some negatives in it like the WTI spread [the spread between the West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark and the global benchmark Brent], the synthetic crude price in Canada and some exploration write-offs," Voser said.
Royal Dutch Shell promised a 4.7 percent increase in its quarterly dividend on Thursday.
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