Shell is to slash spending on its US upstream operations by a fifth this year as the oil giant continues to refocus in the wake of last year’s profits drop.

The Anglo-Dutch supermajor saw profits slide 48%, and has already put three of its North Sea fields up for sale as it looks to raise £9billion through asset sales.

Now the company, which said today it would cut capital investment by around £5billion this year, is to reduce investment in its shale operations in the USA.

Shell confirmed it would reduce spend on its resources in the American region by 20% compared to last year, with a focus on lower cost gas sites and a move into liquid-rich shale.

“Shell has a strong asset base and industry leadership in many of its growth themes,” said chief executive Ben Van Beurden.

“While this position of strength gives confidence for the future, it is also clear that we need to get a tighter grip on performance management in Shell.

“I am determined that, by focusing sharply on our three key priorities – better financial performance, in particular in our Upstream Americas and Downstream businesses, enhanced capital efficiency, and continuing strong project delivery, we will continue to grow our cash flow and improve our returns.”

The company said it would increase its focus on international propspects, particularly in Iraq and Kazakhstan, along with looking to mature its interests in Nigeria despite the security problems in the African state which have cost the firm upwards of 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The firm is to restructure its downstream operations, after the success of its chemicals and biofuels businesses was hampered by the ongoing decline of the refining market.

“Shell has considerable strengths in portfolio, technology and management capabilities,” said Mr Van Beurden.

“However, we must improve profitability in several areas. We are taking stock of our investment opportunities and operating positions.”