Royal Dutch Shell’s (NYSE:RDSA) CEO Ben van Beurden said Thursday that a tighter grip on its Upstream Americas business will be integral to its plan to boost cash flow and improve returns.

Losses in resource plays such as shales have hurt Upstream Americas' profitability, Shell said in a statement on its 2014 Management Day in London. Shell is cutting spending in 2014 by 20 percent from 2013 levels and redirecting onshore investment in Upstream Americas to the lowest-cost gas acreage with the best integration potential and to exploration in liquids-rich shales. Shell expects profitable growth to continue in deepwater and heavy oil.

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

He also said Shell is determined to deliver a better performance of its asset portfolio this year.

"With sharper accountability in the company, this approach will target growth investment more effectively, focus on areas of the business where performance improvement is most required, and drive asset sales from non-strategic positions,” van Beurden said.

Shell plans to improve growth in upstream businesses that are delivering high returns and strong cash flow. About $35 billion in investments are planned for 2014.

In the short term, Shell expects cash flow from deepwater projects. In the long term, the company plans to identify and develop opportunities in Iraq, Kazakhstan and Nigeria, the latter where thieves have been siphoning off $3 billion to $8 billion in oil a year and damaging pipelines, according to a report by Chatham House.

"We are taking stock of our investment opportunities and operating positions,” van Beurden said. “Are our assets attractive economically, and are they resilient to industry cycles? Are our plans credible, are they competitive and are they affordable? This approach is driving hard choices on today's asset base, new opportunities, and disposals plans, where we have recently announced exits from Australia and Italy downstream, Wheatstone LNG in Australia, and U.S. gas-to-liquids."

So far this year, Shell has sold $4.5 billion in assets as part of its 2014-2015 $15 billion asset-shedding program.