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Royal Dutch Shell Prelude Project ‘A Step Too Far’

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 17.11.37By John Donovan

I have received a comment about the most recent Bill Campbell Prelude article from another expert, a former Shell executive. 

I refer to Hans Bouman, the retired Groningen Gas Field Asset Manager for NAM, a joint Royal Dutch Shell/ExxonMobil operation.

Mr Bouman is the expert who in 2002 warned Shell/Sakhalin Energy internally of his concerns over the Sakhalin2 project, including an unforgiving schedule, a theme he returned to a number of times. 

Extract from a May 2002 internal email from Hans Bouman to Engel van Spronsen, Technical Director, Sakhalin Energy:

“All this probably hearsay and no science or hard facts but still: I get this sinking feeling. I would NEVER EVER want to be schedule driven pre FID on a 9 billion $ project. That is asking for problems.”

This was four years prior to the debacle that occurred after  the project had indeed become hopelessly delayed and over-budget.

It is also worth remember that Mr Campbell is the Shell expert who warned Shell internally about serious shortcomings on the Brent Bravo Platform before a huge explosion from leaking gas killed Shell workers.

Given their track record, the unease expressed by these two experts in relation to the Prelude project should be taken very seriously.



Another excellent article by Bill Campbell on the HSE aspects of the giant project Prelude. It should be compulsory reading for every professional and director in the upstream business as well as legislators and law enforcement agencies. It teaches people to ask the right questions and know upfront what the risks will be prior to committing to such a project. In short, thinking before doing! It is easy to issue nice posters, booklets and stories on the record-breaking magnitude of Prelude. That goes down very well at host governments who only see economic activity, employment figures and taxes. It would be much better if the same would be done on the HSE of this project. No director can later claim ‘they never told me’ so I did not intervene. But I have this sinking feeling some will. I see equivalents of invading far away countries based on some vague ideas. And after it has all gone wrong and misery spread to millions of people and billions of dollars wasted, new politicians will spin many stories and blur or re-write the past.

I personally think that Prelude is a step too far.

Hans Bouman

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