Shell easily beat expectations in the first quarter of this year with record profits in spite of sliding energy prices, prompting accusations of profiteering by the FTSE 100 company.

In its best-ever first quarter, Shell posted profits this morning of more than $9.6 billion (£7.6bn), well above the $7.96 predicted by industry analysts. It comes just two days after fellow oil major BP also beat expectations even as oil and gas prices tumbled from last year's highs.

Shell said profits rose thanks to strong earnings from fuel trading and higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales. It also confirmed that it will hold steady with plans to return $4bn in surplus cash to shareholders in the coming three months.

READ MORE: Anger over BP's bumper profits is understandable

"It’s hard to stomach another iniquitous profit announcement from Shell, all whilst the country struggles in the grips of a cost-of-living crisis," said a spokesman for campaign group Global Justice Now.

"Rather than putting some of its $9bn profit towards reducing energy bills or paying for its climate damages, Shell has instead chosen to dole out over $4bn to its shareholders. Enough is enough, we need a polluters' tax to put that money back where it belongs and end this loathsome profiteering off our climate misery."

Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, said Shell and BP were “continuing the profiteering bonanza”.

“The scale of profiteering displayed today by Shell and earlier this week BP is one of the corporate scandals of our times," she added. "And this is practically untouched by Rishi Sunak’s so-called windfall tax.

“Not taking any action against ‘Big Oil’ means the profiteering plundering will continue without end.”