Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image The Hans Bouman, Engel van Spronsen Sakhalin emails

Published below in their entirety are the emails between two senior Shell managers, Hans Bouman and Engel van Spronsen which were the subject of a recent article published by MarketWatch: MarketWatch: Shell manager warned of Sakhalin faults in e-mails

Postings on our Live Chat facility and other incoming emails relating to the same issues are also published on this page. All of this information has been supplied to interested third parties including Oleg Mitvol, Deputy Head of Rosprirodnadzor (Russian Federal Environment Protection Agency. We are also sending information to Mitsui and Mitsubishi, Shell’s current partners in the Sakhalin II white elephant project, just in case they are being kept in the dark by the lead partner.


—-Original Message—–
From: Bouman, Hans MGJ NAM-ELG
Sent:  29 May 2002 01:24
To: Van Spronsen, Engel
Subject: Sakhalin
Sensitivity: Personal


Long time no hear! Hope all is well. I write this in english as you may want to quote from this email. I write it completely on personal title, nothing is of my business and if you think I am talking crap, just delete it.

We had last week a visit of some of the Sakhalin team people to look at our big wells (Pauwen-6 and Norg) because your project would need very big wells.

We have shown them around in the field and passed some data along and at the end of the day there was a short meeting during which they presented some stuff on the Lunskoye field. During that meeting I told them not to underestimate the difficulties of putting in a 9 5/8″completion, this is a major project and not a copy paste job!

When they talked (with great enthusiasm!) about the well completions and other problems (earthquake area, young faults that have gasplumes, half a year no access to platform etc) and I saw the completion design, I started to worry, especially on the oil producers.

Engel, several of us had the same feeling: this is not going too well. On some general questions why not this or that (e.g. sub sea templates like in Troll or Draugen) we heard: yes you are right but we are now schedule driven…..

I couple that to emails from a subsurface hand I know in the Sakhalin team and he is also apprehensive. And later, not related to any of this I heard from Teun van Waart that many moons ago EP declined to do something in this field because the risks were too high but that G&P had signed a contract anyhow.

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.

I also hope nobody will state somewhere that NAM has reviewed their design and it is now OK. We never did anything like this.

I can only advise to be very cautious, ask some senior people to comment/design stuff in this are and get the biggest bastards you can find for a VAR3 to really grill everyone on the team. It will all happen after we both retire but nevertheless: I am a shareholder and I am worried.

Please do not shit on the guys that were here, they mean well and else they will never come forward with ideas etc. NAM could help on reviewing designs or on VARs.

All the above written in great haste and in several different periods so treat it as such.



ps today I agreed on a visit by the Central Development Committee next Thursday. A group of some 13-15 people will visit based on enthusiastic stories by the visitors I described above!

Hans Bouman

Manager Asset Groningen

Tel: +31 592 3 63276  GSM: 06 201 35 448

Internet: [email protected]

—–Original Message—–
From: Van Spronsen, Engel
Sent: woensdag 5 juni 2002 4:00
To: Bouman, Hans  NAM-ELG
Subject: RE: Sakhalin
Sensitivity: Personal


I never ever think that what you say is crap. I think it shows that the text is written at different time, so my apologies for asking questions to get a good picture.

I accept that a 9 5/8 completion is a major job, but do you have the feeling that the Sakhalin staff got that in their head?

What is exactly your concern about the completion, particularly for the oil wells? I assume that is not related to your paragraph about general questions (sub-sea template).

Thank you for noting that NAM did not sign off on the design (you must however done this, so what do you mean by “We never did anything like this”) . Can you advice me on some real bastards I can use to grill?

I know that Paul Stuivenwold is also apprehensive about the “production technology” input, particularly for the gas wells. Is that the subsurface hand you refer too or are there more?

I share sometimes the same feeling as you about schedule, particularly if the schedule is “very aspirational”. One problem we have however is that the Russian Approval system requires an early lock-in of about everything. Any change immediately sets off a whole series of new environmental impact calculations etc.

Thanks for hosting the CDC. So far this group has been quite reasonable. All experts you can convince with good technical arguments. They are the group who sign off on the reservoir development plan. Unfortunately, the State Reserve Committee is more difficult. One would expect that development plan and reserves have a link, but that link is in Russia not so clear. However, we have even be able to convince the SRC.

Hope to hear from you soon.



From: Bouman, Hans MGJ NAM-ELG
Sent: 25 June 2002 15:49
To: Van Spronsen, Engel
Subject: RE: Sakhalin
Sensitivity: Personal


I am back since 2 days so here a very short answer.

I believe that the guys that visited us understand that a 9 5/8 completion is a major piece of work. With ‘not signed off’ I mean that we as NAM did not tell Sakhalin all was well with their 9 5/8 well. Their visit was only for info and sharing best practices etc, so no formal NAM involvement. Of course we signed off 14 years ago on the Pauwen6 well and that has worked very well.

My concerns on the lunskoye project were:

– limited time of access to the platform so you must build in redundancy.
– the gasplumes you have over those big faults. What are the chances of re-activating those faults if you drill through them with extended reach wells.

– I forgot the number of wells but understand these will be limited, so what of the reliability of supply?. Also the oilwells would be horizontals from the platform that would produce high watercuts very quickly. But they would perforate the wells higher up for autogaslift since the wells would not flow against 1400 psi surface pressure. They could not argue why not putting a simple LP unit on top and flare some gas for the first few weeks.

– injection of cuttings in this are: any risk for re-activating faults?
– why not use any templates and do everything from 1 platform? (Answer ‘ yes’ we think so too but we are already on a schedule driven programme…)

If you are going to put a VAR team together I suggest you include Willem Heijnen, now in New Orleans for wel and completion design and knowing Willem he will comment on many other topics as well. Also a good designer would be Peter Oosterling, no idea where he is now.

I cannot remember more things but hope this clarifies my worries somewhat. Apparently the visit of the CPC has gone very smoothly, they were very happy to see our facilities and Groningen System. One of our production people drove the bus past the house of Koop in Tjuchem and they all saw the big statue of Lenin in his garden (10 m tall!) This impressed the hell out of them!




guest_2770: If this is just the beginning of the ministry’s audit of Sakhalin, I wonder what they will find next.

Looks like Gazprom will be getting a lot more than 25% of Sakhalin 2..

guest_4214: wait until they discover the flawed ERD well designs which have a high chance of causing blow-outs when drilling through the young faults and wait until they discover that there maybe just insufficient contingency built into the process facilities and number of wells to produce uninterrupted several months unattended. Just imagine if the facility trips in early winter with no possibility to send people there. An LNG plant without gasinput is an expensive piece of kit  Putin may drive Shell mad until they want to give Sakhalin away for free?


The messages posted about the ERD wells through young faults and process facilities deserve to be highlighted. If true, these are both very serious issues.  Due to ice and fog, access to the Sakhalin offshore production facilities during the winter months is severely limited, and they are therefore designed to be operated unmanned. In the event that a fault is detected in the production system, the facilities are designed to shut down automatically, cutting the supply of gas to the LNG plant onshore. Manual intervention, investigation and rectification of the fault are then required prior to restarting. Faults are more likely to occur if the system design does not incorporate adequate contingency.

An ERD (Extended Reach Development) well is a extended reach well, designed to drain a reservoir at a distance (up to 8km) from a platform. If an ERD well is drilled through an active geological fault, any geological activity is likely to rupture the well casing and production tubing, causing a blowout (an uncontrolled release of hydrocarbons from the reservoir). The environmental consequences of such an event in winter would be catastrophic as it may be impossible to undertake blowout control measures until the following summer. This could result in the discharge of millions of tons of oil into an ice filled sea, and the Exxon Valdez would look insignificant in comparison. And the whales?

Email received from a Shell insider on 5 October 2006.  Please note the caveat.

There is an interesting comment in the Kashagan article by a Total executive, who says that the development has to be re-designed because of safety concerns. Shell was originally the operator of Kashagan, but was kicked out. ENI became the operator by default, but inherited much of Shell’s prior work and project infrastructure – hence the offices for the project are in the Hague rather than Milan. If the development planning for Kashagan was so bad that it now has to be re-engineered, Shell will have some responsibility, casting further doubts on the safety and viability of the development plan for Sakhalin. I have not checked the dates and cannot remember all the details, so it’s probably better not to quote too much of the previous paragraph – although there are certainly plenty of people (doubtless readers of your website) who will be able to confirm/correct my suspicions.

Email received by a Shell insider on 8 October 2006.

The issue of well integrity, as wonderfully illustrated by the Indonesian disaster, is real. If my understanding is correct, the Sakhalin 2 wells are horizontal, and penetrate active, non-sealing, faults. In the event of an earthquake (and they are frequent in and around Sakhalin), it is probable that the wells would be sheared by any movement of a fault. This would cause exactly the same situation as we see in Indonesia, except that it would be further complicated by the fact that the fluid released might be oil rather than gas (both will be produced in Sakhalin) causing an environmental disaster on a scale never seen before, that the eruptions would take place offshore, and that the sea might be frozen preventing any remedial action for several months.

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