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The Sakhalin Times: Leaked memos and piling pressure on Sakhalin Energy

20 June 2007

When Gazprom took over the Sakhalin II project, it was believed that Moscow would call the shots in the project and that Shell would merely be a minority partner. Those in Sakhalin and well connected with the project basically know that other than an urgency to fill most vacancies with Russian citizens, very little has changed. That is, other than the fact that the environmental brigade easing its pressure on the consortium. The fact remains that Sakhalin Energy is still synonymous with Shell and the pressure is still on the Anglo-Dutch company to fulfill its LNG delivery obligations.

Thanks to an embarrassing leak, the international media has been having a field day at the expense of Sakhalin Energy and project director David Greer. The source of inspiration was none other than American World War II hero General George S. Patton, whose speech ahead of the D-Day invasions had much the same wordings of the Mr Greer’s memo. It’s this line used by both General Paton and David Greer that has been the source of much mocking: “So Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way; Success is how we bounce when we are on the bottom.”

Time will tell whether the memo proves to be inspirational to Sakhalin Energy’s engineers or not. The leak has basically confirmed fears that the company’s engineers and pipeliners are under immense pressure and seem to be buckling under this pressure. Mr Greer asserts that the team’s body language shows a lack of confidence.

To be fair to Sakhalin Energy’s engineers, they are a highly professional lot, with most of them working on major projects in various environments. They are the last people to be blamed for any delay in the Sakhalin II project. They have been subject to scrutiny by environmentalists for years and last year, it was the Russian Government that was interrupting their work at periodic intervals.

The fact remains that Sakhalin Energy has to deliver its first shipments of LNG by the second half of 2008. Although it’s the reputation of Shell and the Russian Government at stake, those in charge of the crucial pipelines may be the ones who will bear the brunt and fury of the situation in case something or the other leads to a delay. It’s a shame considering the professionalism that the pipeliners and engineers have shown in incredibly difficulty conditions.

“When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble player; the fastest runner; the big league ball players; the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win – all the time.”-General George S Patton

“When everyone of you were kids, I am sure that you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league football players. Personally, I, like most others, love winning. I despise cowards and play to win all of the time. This is what I expect of each and everyone of you.” – David Greer

Note that there were no references in the memo to General Patton. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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