Royal Dutch Shell, known to most people as simply Shell, is one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world and one with a very long history. The company has its headquarters in the Netherlands but is incorporated in the United Kingdom. Shell has origins in two merged companies, each one dating back more than one hundred years.
Shell is the seventh largest company in the world in terms of revenue as of 2016. It is also one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. The worth of Royal Dutch Shell is so great that it is equivalent to nearly 85 percent of the total gross domestic product of the country of the Netherlands. Much of the work that Shell does is offshore including drilling and exploration using platforms and rigs on the continental shelf regions of numerous countries. As such a big company working in a dangerous industry, Shell has experienced a number of maritime accidents.
History of Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell dates back to 1907 to the merger of the British Shell Transport and Trading Company and the Dutch company Royal Dutch Petroleum. The two companies came together to join forces against the powerful Standard Oil. All these companies at the time were fiercely competing to find and access the next great oil field, including offshore sites.
The origins of the company date back even further than 1907 considering the beginnings of the two merged companies. Royal Dutch Petroleum began in 1890 with an oil field in Sumatra. Shell Transport and Trading was founded in 1897, but originated as a much earlier company that imported seashells, hence the name and one of the now most recognized corporate logos in the world.
Since its early beginnings Shell has mainly been in the business of finding and exploiting natural oil and gas reserves. Much of these can be found offshore and underwater and so Shell is one of the world’s biggest maritime companies and maritime employers. Operations are conducted around the world, in and off the shores of at least 90 different countries.
Today, Shell’s operations are divided into four major groupings:
- Upstream Americas. Upstream Americas operates all aspects of oil and gas recovery in North and South America. This includes exploration, drilling, and transport. It also includes recovery of bitumen from fields of oil sands.
- Upstream International. This division is responsible for exploring and recovering gas and oil outside of the Americas. It operates the infrastructure used to liquefy recovered gas and to transport oil and gas from wells and platforms to other locations around the world.
- Downstream. This is the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution arm of the company.
- Projects and Technology. This division is responsible for research and development, mainly focused on creating new technologies as solutions. It provides all the technology and related services to the other divisions.
Some of the many projects conducted by this huge company include recovering and liquefying natural gas in Nigeria, developing Canada’s oil sands, natural gas deepwater projects off the coast of Norway, and Stones, an ultra-deep water project in the Gulf of Mexico that will become the deepest oil or gas production facility in the world.
Shell’s Arctic Project
As if working on continental shelf platforms and in deep water and ultra-deep water settings weren’t dangerous enough, Shell has also explored and worked in the frigid and dangerous waters of the Arctic Ocean. Shell’s drilling project in the Arctic began in 2006 with its Kulluk oil rig. With experience in the North Sea, Shell hoped it could be successful in the Arctic, but the project was plagued with problems.
It took six years before the project could actually begin drilling because of permits, legal restrictions, protests, and the technical challenges of drilling in the harsh environment. Finally the project was hit by a major accident when the Kulluk, which was being towed for service in Washington, ran aground in Alaska during a storm. The project was set back yet again and Shell had already invested $5 billion in it. A federal investigation ending in 2015 ultimately blamed Shell for the Kulluk accident.
Other Royal Dutch Shell Accidents
The grounding of the huge oil rig was a disaster for Shell, but the crew guiding it was safe after rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard. This was not the only incident for Shell over the years and other accidents have been far more tragic. On September 11, 2003, two Shell workers died as the result of a gas leak on a North Sea oil platform called the Brent Bravo.
The gas leak was a sudden one, rather than gradual, and while several workers were safely evacuated, two men died on the scene. After an investigation, Shell was found to be negligent and responsible for the accident and deaths, which could have been prevented. The company was found guilty of failing to make necessary repairs on the platform. A repair of a hole in the leg of the platform would have prevented the gas leak.
Shell has also been guilty of more than one oil spill. These incidents cause huge environmental damage, harm people and animals, and wreak havoc on local economies. Most recently, Shell was responsible for an oil leak of more than 88,000 gallons off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The leak occurred at Glider field, which is an under water system piping oil between four different wells out to the Brutus platform in the Gulf of Mexico. A problem with the subsea infrastructure is thought to be the cause of the leak.
Injured Maritime Workers
In such a dangerous industry, many types of accidents may occur that either injure or kill maritime workers. Shell has been responsible for a number of accidents, of which the above are just a few examples. With ships going to and from platforms, rigs and platforms working in dangerous offshore locations, and workers manning all of this equipment in rough waters and harsh weather, it is no wonder that people get hurt. Workers may be hurt or killed by gas leaks or oil spills, fires and explosions, falls and drownings, equipment malfunctions, or when other workers make bad decisions on the job.
Shell’s workers like others in the maritime industry have recourse to seek monetary damages after an accident and injury. Loved ones can seek compensation after the death of an employee. There are laws in place to ensure that employers like Shell must pay their workers when something goes so horribly wrong. If you have been hurt on a maritime job, be sure to contact a lawyer before you agree to any deals.