Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has joined the profits bonanza from record prices with a 71 per cent jump in third-quarter earnings.
The firm made a mammoth $10.9 billion between July and September – a period when oil prices hit a peak above $147 a barrel.
The news, likely to spark fresh calls for a windfall tax, comes two days after rival BP posted its biggest-ever quarterly profits of £6.4 billion.
Royal Dutch Shell posted the huge profits – a quarterly record and equivalent to £72 million a day – despite a one per cent fall in production on last year.
This was due to hurricane damage in the Gulf of Mexico, which hit refining, as well as maintenance in the North Sea.
Oil prices have since fallen to less than half their mid-July peak to trade at around $70 a barrel, as global demand fears mount.
Chief executive Jeroen van der Veer – who called the results “satisfactory” – said the company was “robust across a wide range of oil prices”.
“We are watching the world economic situation closely,” he added.
Stripping out more than $2.8 billion (£1.7 billion) of exceptional gains from disposals and revalued oil and gas contracts, Shell’s “clean” profits of $8 billion (£4.8 billion) were well ahead of City forecasts of $7.2 billion (£4.3 billion).
Shell and BP have now posted profits of £13 billion this week.
Shell’s profits from exploration and production jumped 65 per cent to $5.5?billion (£3.3 billion) despite higher exploration costs and disruption.
The stormy hurricane season and shutdown of its St Fergus gas processing base in the North Sea cost an estimated 120,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in production, the company added.
“Earnings compared to the third quarter of 2007 reflected the benefit of higher oil and gas prices,” the firm said.
The firm’s average selling price for its oil was $113.90 a barrel between July and September – compared to $69.31 in the same period last year.
Investors cashed in with an 11 per cent rise in the third-quarter dividend.
Mr van der Veer added: “Our strategy remains to pay competitive and progressive dividends, and make significant investments in the company.”
On Wednesday Shell named chief financial officer Peter Voser its next chief executive. He will take over when Mr van der Veer retires at the end of June.
This week BP came under fire from the Government and unions after posting record quarterly results amounting to £70 million per day.
While not naming any companies directly, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged energy companies to pass on falls in the price of oil to consumers through reduced prices for petrol at the pump and fuel to heat homes. Speaking at 10 Downing Street, Mr Brown said: “I notice some companies have brought prices down and I encourage others to do so to reflect the fact the price of oil is now below $60 when it used to be, for a few weeks, nearly $150.
“There has been more than a halving in the price of oil and, just as when the price goes up people see it immediately reflected in the petrol pump prices, we want to see the falling price reflected in the petrol pump prices, and we are determined to see that happen.”