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Shell executive responsible for Arctic campaign to step down

A senior Royal Dutch Shell executive with responsibility for the oil major’s troubled Arctic exploration campaign is leaving the company “by mutual consent”

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Kulluk, the oil drilling rig owned by Royal Dutch Shell ran aground in Alaska after drifting in stormy weather. Photo: AFP

By 6:02PM GMT 22 Mar 2013

Dave Lawrence, executive vice-president for exploration and commercial for Shell’s Upstream Americas division, is to depart this summer after 29 years with the company.

Mr Lawrence, 57, is one of the most senior managers overseeing Shell’s controversial Arctic programme, which was hit by a series of setbacks in 2012.

His departure was announced internally on March 11, three days before the US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released the results of a report into its mishap-hit 2012 campaign and declared the company had “screwed up”.

The report found Shell had begun the 2012 drilling season “without having finalised key components of its program” and criticised “weaknesses in Shell’s management of contractors”.

The company had already abandoned plans to drill in 2013, and the Interior Department said it would not be able to resume in 2014 until it had undergone “a full third-party management system audit”.

This would have to confirm Shell’s management systems were “appropriately tailored for Arctic conditions” and that it had “addressed the problems that it encountered during the 2012 drilling season”.

Shell has now decided to split the responsibilities held by Mr Lawrence between three people, including one with dedicated responsibility for Arctic exploration.

A Shell spokesman said this reflected the fact that each aspect of the Americas exploration & commercial portfolio “continues to grow”.

Shell has so far spent $5bn in the Arctic without being allowed to drill to potentially oil-bearing rocks.

Its most high profile setback last year was the grounding of its Kulluk rig off Alaska while it was being towed in a storm. The company’s other rig was found by the US Coast Guard to have safety flaws.

Shell also struggled to get certification for its oil spill response vessel and had problems with a containment dome, a key piece of equipment to cap a spill.

Shell said: “We appreciate the Department of Interior’s review of Shell’s 2012 Alaska operations and take seriously the findings and recommendations that are highlighted within.”

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