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Shell’s Simon Henry says its not difficult to drill in the Arctic Seas

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 17.18.55How reassuring.

According to a Bloomberg article, Simon Henry, a mathematician, accountant, and the Chief Financial Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, has stated in relation to drilling for oil in Arctic seas,  off Alaska –

“Its not that difficult to drill up there.”

The long term bean counter is also quoted as saying “Thirty years ago we went there and drilled several wells pretty quickly.”

His bold statements would have more weight if uttered by someone with expertise in offshore drilling.

Some might describe his comments as ill informed and even reckless, bearing in mind Shell’s recent shambles that heavily damaged the companies reputation.

As a finance man, did Simon Henry have any role in the decision to send a rig into stormy seas off Alaska in an effort to evade tax?

The one that ran aground and put lives at risk.

This extract from a US News & World Report article published in April 2014 is typical of many comments published on the subject:

Notably, in September 2012, a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig ran aground in Alaska as workers attempted to tow it beyond the state’s waters. A Coast Guard report released Friday found that the Anglo-Dutch oil company decided to move the rig – and insisted on doing so through dangerous stormy weather – to avoid paying new Alaskan taxes. The report also detailed myriad safety issues.

Shell Executive David Lawrence of Alaska, paid the price for the debacle.

Simon Henry seems to think we have already forgotten about those dramatic events.

That would be another huge miscalculation on the part of Shell. 


Simon Henry is correct when he says that it is not difficult to drill in the Arctic. However, drilling is just a small part of the overall process. The discussions should be based on all of the activities involved in exploration, development and production processes, including such issues as potential well control problems, accidental discharges and equipment failures. These are not supposed to happen, but as both Shell and BP have proven, they cannot simply be overlooked. The destruction of the Kulluk did not occur during drilling operations. The Macondo blowout occurred after drilling operations on the well had been completed. Shell have access to the technical resources and skills to minimise the risks, but have shown that they are unable to deploy them successfully in the Alaskan Arctic. The blind confidence of inexperienced drilling staff is perhaps the greatest single risk.


Simon Henry is correct. But he forgets to add ‘to do it well’. He seems to be completely detached from reality and his statement is a slap in the face of the professionals who do not get listened to!


I would like to add to the Simon Henry blog made by others that it merely emphasises the fact that Financial Managers (at whatever level) have very little idea about the E&P business and should NOT have the authority to sign off documentation on the behalf of the E&P experts. This is a fact that I verbally made very clear to Bichsel many moons ago.

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