By Shadia Nasralla
LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell expects its fuel sales to fall or at best be broadly steady for the first quarter, the world's biggest fuel retailer said on Wednesday, indicating fuel demand recovery has remained slow amid coronavirus restrictions.
In a trading update, Shell said it saw refined oil product sales at 3.7-4.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter compared with just under 4.8 million bpd in the last quarter of 2020. It had previously forecast sales of 4-5 million bpd.
Refinery utilisation rates in the quarter stood at 71%-75%, compared with a forecast of 73%-81%.
Shell's refining margins have improved to around $2.6 per barrel in the quarter from $1.6 in the previous quarter.
In gas, Shell said it expected trading results to be "significantly below average".
Shell sees its first-quarter liquefied natural gas (LNG) production at 7.8-8.4 million tonnes, compared with 8.2 million in the previous quarter and a forecast of 8-8.6 million tonnes.
Total upstream production was expected to rise to 2.4-2.48 million barrel of oil equivalent, at the lower end of the forecasted range, from 2.37 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.
An extreme cold snap in Texas is expected to have shrunk its output by 10,000-20,000 bpd and to shave up to $200 million from its adjusted first-quarter earnings, due to be reported on April 29.
Benchmark crude prices in the first quarter rose around 24% and were trading near $63 a barrel on Wednesday.
Graphics: Shell fuel products sales - https://graphics.reuters.com/SHELL-EMISSIONS/xlbvgxnadpq/chart.png
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Andrew Heavens)