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Shell moving some jobs from New Orleans to Houston

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By Jennifer Larino, | The Times-Picayune: 18 APRIL 2016

Shell will relocate some jobs from New Orleans to Houston as it moves forward with plans to cut its global workforce by 10,000 employees and contractors. The company started cutting jobs last year in response to low oil prices.

Details are sparse on how the global cuts affect the roughly 1,900 workers based in One Shell Square in downtown New Orleans. Shell says it does not provide layoff counts by region. Workers close to the situation have reported that jobs may be moving to Houston in addition to cuts. They asked not to be named to protect their jobs.

In several statements sent to | The Times-Picayune through email, Shell said it is still evaluating changes in New Orleans, but will move “some individuals” to Houston in 2016. The company expects the relocations to affect less than 5 percent of its New Orleans workforce. That translates to fewer than 95 jobs total.

Shell said it intends to maintain a presence in New Orleans over the long term.

“We plan to continue being an integral part of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, which means continuously reviewing our portfolio to remain competitive, including assets and staffing needs,” one statement said.

Shell announced in December that it planned to cut 2,800 jobs worldwide amid plunging oil prices, bringing layoffs to about 10,300 in a workforce reduction that began in early 2015. Earlier this year, Shell completed its takeover of Britain’s BG Group, laying out plans to streamline and shed roughly $30 billion in assets over the next three years.

Shell employed roughly 2,300 staff and contractors in New Orleans last year. That number is down to 1,900 this month.

Shell previously announced certain jobs in its global deepwater exploration and production division would move to its U.S. headquarters in Houston. The relocation plans in New Orleans also appear to target jobs that support the company’s oil and gas developments in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, some of the most expensive and long-term projects in Shell’s portfolio.

Several departments work out of One Shell Square, including workers who support the company’s Louisiana refineries and those who manage its web of offshore pipelines. A portion of the staff provides operations and engineering expertise for deepwater projects. Shell also has three technology centers in New Orleans, hubs where workers monitor offshore developments from onshore.

One Shell employee who asked not to be named said workers in the deepwater projects and technology group were recently given a survey asking how they would feel about a potential move to Houston.

Shell confirmed the survey “was sent out about a month ago to two select teams, allowed us to gauge these individuals’ personal circumstances and desires.”

All this comes as investors speculate where Shell plans to invest in oil and gas exploration given what is expected to be a long lull in oil prices. The company’s acquisition of BG Group makes it one of the largest foreign investors in Brazil’s highly coveted deepwater fields. Shell is considering steering more money there.

How that plays out in New Orleans remains to be seen.

“We routinely adjust our portfolio and staff to remain competitive,” Shell said in its statement. “Individual discussions and business assessments are still underway.”

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