ROYAL Dutch Shell has said it expects to cut up to 9,000 jobs as it looks to slash spending amid the crude price plunge triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

The oil and gas giant, which is a big player in the North Sea, said the cuts form part of a simplification programme that it expects will help it save up to $2.5 billion (£1.9bn) annually.

They could result in a reduction of around 10 per cent in total employee numbers at the group.

Chief executive Ben van Beurden said there were too many layers in the group.

Shell did not give any indication of how the cuts will impact on its operations in the UK.

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The group employs around 1,000 in its North Sea business and a further 5,500 in other operations in the UK.

It said a programme that is expected to involve from 7,000 to 9,000 job reductions should be completed by the end of 2022. The numbers include around 1,500 people who have agreed to take voluntary redundancy this year.

Shell has around 83,000 employees around the world.

The cuts will be made as Mr van Beurden aims to transform Shell into a net-zero emissions energy business. This will involve Shell increasing investment in renewable energy and supporting efforts to help reduce emissions associated with use of its products.

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However, Mr van Beurden said Shell’s upstream oil and gas exploration and production operation will remain a key part of the business. The division includes significant operations in the UK North Sea.

“Upstream will be critical to Shell as we change – we need it to be very successful, so we have the financial strength to invest further in our lower-carbon products,” said Mr van Beurden in an interview published on Shell’s website. He added that the upstream division will be more focused.

Regarding the job cuts planned by the group, Mr van Beurden said: “We have to be a simpler, more streamlined, more competitive organisation that is more nimble and able to respond to customers.”

Shell cut North Sea jobs amid the four-year downturn that started in 2014. It sold off non core assets but invested heavily in new developments West of Shetland.

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In July Mr van Beurden said Shell remained committed to the North Sea and underlined its belief in the potential of the West of Shetland area.

In April Shell announced the first cut in its dividend since the Second World War.