Shell delays Athabasca expansion decision

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L said on Thursday that it would delay its investment decision on a second expansion of its Athabasca oil sands project, the latest deferral sparked by falling energy prices and a global financial crisis.

Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer made the announcement as Europe’s biggest oil company posted stronger third-quarter profit.

The company also said it expected winter oil production at its Sakhalin project to start soon and that Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas sales would start in early 2009.

The growing financial crisis, plunging energy prices and rising costs have forced oil companies to scale back spending and delay projects, with expensive ventures in the Canadian oil sands hardest hit.

A growing list of Canadian projects have been put on hold or scaled back in recent months. For example, Suncor Energy SU.TO said last week that it would delay construction of an oil sands upgraded for C$20.6 billion ($17 billion) by one year to 2013.

($1=$1.20 Canadian)

Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn