Royal Dutch Shell Plc (NYSE: RDS.A) agreed to sell most of its Canadian oil sands assets for $8.5 billion, the latest international oil major to withdraw from the costly projects, which are among the most carbon-heavy.
Shell is trying to sell assets totaling $30 billion to cut debt following its $54 billion acquisition of BG Group and is under investor pressure to mitigate climate change risks.
As well as revealing the Canadian oil sands sale, Shell also said March 9 that 10% of directors' bonuses will now be tied to how well it manages greenhouse gas emissions in refining, chemical and upstream.
Analysts welcomed the deal, under which Shell has agreed to sell its existing and undeveloped Canadian oil sands interests to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (NYSE: CNQ) and to cut its share in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) to 10% from 60%.
"This significant divestment should help de-gear Shell's balance sheet over 2017 and help remove concerns around the dividend," Biraj Borkhataria of RBC Capital Markets said.
Shell is also buying half of Marathon Oil Canada Corp. which brings the deal's value to Shell to $7.25 billion and its divestment plan total to around $20 billion as it works towards its target of $30 billion by late 2018.
Shell said it would remain as operator of the AOSP Scotford upgrader and the Quest carbon capture and storage project.
Shares in Shell were trading 1.1$ lower at 2:52 a.m. CT (8:52 GMT), in line with the sector index that was down 1.2%.
The company is also replacing earnings per share in directors' long-term incentives with free cash flow, saying its disposals program had made it a more important metric.
In its annual report, Shell said its CEO Ben van Beurden saw his pay jump 60% to 8.263 million euros (US$8.7 million) in 2016, the year he pulled off the BG purchase. (US$1 = 0.9482 euros)