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Shell shareholders reject challenge to Canadian oil sands programme

ANGLO-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell’s shareholders yesterday rejected a resolution challenging the company’s multi-billion dollar investments in Canadian oil sands projects.

At the company’s annual meeting, a provisional 94.26 per cent of investors voted against the proposal, which had challenged Shell on the financial risks that oil sands projects might pose. BP beat off an identical challenge to its Canadian oil sands project last month.

A group of ethical investors, environmentalists and indigenous groups had urged Shell to reconsider its plans to squeeze crude from Alberta’s bitumen-drenched tar sands fields.

But Shell, Europe’s largest oil company by market capitalisation, had urged investors to vote against the resolution, saying it had already considered potential charges for carbon dioxide in its initial business plans.

Oil majors have come under close scrutiny as BP battles to contain a potential environmental disaster from an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with $30bn in value wiped off BP’s value after a 20 April explosion on its Deepwater Horizon rig.

“The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has proven that environmental and social risks are also financial risks,” said Catherine Howarth, chief of FairPensions, which co-lodged the resolution.

Oil sands production produces more carbon dioxide than traditional oil production, uses more water and typically involves greater damage to the landscape. Charges for emitting carbon dioxide can also prove costly for projects.