Fuel profits storm ahead

OIL giants Shell and BP made combined profits of more than £7 billion during the first quarter of 2008 - as Suffolk motorists continue to see the cost of filling their tanks spiralling.

OIL giants Shell and BP made combined profits of more than £7 billion during the first three months of this year, figures showed today.

Shell reported first quarter profits of 7.7 billion US dollars (£3.92 billion) for the three months to March 31, while BP posted 6.59 billion dollars (£3.32 billion).

The figures have been buoyed by rising oil prices and come at a time when motorists are paying on average almost £5 a gallon at the petrol forecourt.

In Suffolk motorists are paying about £1.10 a litre for petrol and £1.20 a litre for diesel - The Evening Star's weekly fuel survey published every Friday has recorded steady rises over the last few weeks.

The figures from both oil firms were well ahead of the equivalent periods last year - 12 per cent higher for Shell and up 48pc for BP - while the figures were also much stronger than forecasts in the City.

Shell made a surplus of 27.6 billion US dollars (£13.9bn) in 2007, equivalent to more than £1.5 million an hour.

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At the time of its annual results, the Anglo-Dutch company said the profits figure was matched by the amount of money it spent on securing new energy sources.

The company says most of its money comes from exploration and production, rather than from selling petrol on UK forecourts.

The latest record was achieved on the second day of industrial action at the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland and as crude oil prices reached a new all-time high of nearly 120 US dollars a barrel.

Work resumed at Grangemouth today, but it will take up to two weeks for the giant oil plant to return to normal production.

Oil should, however, start flowing through a key pipeline from the North Sea oilfields later this week. That pipeline is powered by the Grangemouth refinery and handles about half of all oil from the North Sea.

Meanwhile haulage company staff were today taking their lorries to London today to protest against "the rocketing price of diesel".

The protest began at the Medway Services on the M2 in Kent and was ending with a rally in Park Lane in central London.

A delegation from the protest was handing in a symbolic coffin to the Houses of Parliament. The delegation was being received by Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for the Kent constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

The organisers are angry that in the last 12 months, the price of diesel at the pumps has surged by 30 per cent. The typical articulated vehicles that people see on the roads delivering goods now cost up to £1,000 in fuel a week.