Shell swung back into massive profit last year, the energy giant revealed Thursday, as oil and gas prices rocketed on recovering demand and geopolitical unrest.

Shell said in a statement that net profit stood at $20.1 billion after a loss after tax of $21.7 billion in 2020, as economies reopened from pandemic lockdowns.

"2021 was a momentous year for Shell," said chief executive Ben van Beurden, noting that the group also simplified its name and structure and outlined plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the bumper earnings, Shell said it planned a share buyback programme totalling $8.5 billion (7.5 billion euros).

"Following the pandemic squalls which decimated the oil price and indeed profits, Shell has returned to form as it finds itself awash with cash," said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

As lockdowns spread in 2020, oil prices dropped off a cliff, even briefly turning negative.

Prices have since rebounded sharply, with the benchmark Brent North Sea oil contract trading at almost $90 per barrel, weighing on business costs and individuals' spending power as inflation worries mount worldwide.

Shell revenue jumped 45 percent to $261.5 billion last year, the group said.

Soaring prices are hugely boosting also the incomes of oil-producing nations.

The 23-nation OPEC+ group, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, announced Wednesday a modest increase in output.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said the oil major had a "momentous year" in 2021
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said the oil major had a "momentous year" in 2021 AFP / BEN STANSALL

It will increase production by 400,000 barrels per day in March, the same amount as in previous months.

Oil prices hit seven-year highs in January, with Brent topping $90, with tensions between Moscow and Western allies at their highest point since the Cold War after Russia massed troops on its border with Ukraine.

Shell's annual performance was largely helped by a net profit of almost $11.5 billion in the fourth quarter, the result also of asset sales.

The group had suffered a loss after tax of $447 million in the third quarter of last year after a big accounting write-off.

European gas prices have also blazed a record-breaking trail over the past year on strong winter demand and the unrest between key supplier Russia and consumer nations.

Electricity prices have additionally seen massive gains.

Shell shareholders backed plans in December to switch the oil giant's headquarters from the Netherlands to Britain after a century -- and to drop Royal Dutch from its name.

That has meant also a switch of its tax residence to Britain as well as top executives including Beurden to London.

Shell is however keeping 8,500 staff in the Netherlands.