This is all rather amusing. There is a website out there called royaldutchshellplc.com, which is run by a chap who doesn’t like the management and business practices of Royal Dutch/Shell very much.
I’d drifted over to it a few times recently because he’d been writing some stuff about the Sakhalin II project, and I was vaguely interested in what was being said. However, one thing he wrote I took issue with:
What is not in dispute is that: -
1. Sakhalin II costs doubled to an admitted $20 billion, thereby ruining Shell’s reputation for competent project management.
so yesterday I left a comment as follows:
I put it to you that whereas the first part of the above sentence is not in dispute, the second part can hardly be claimed to be beyond dispute. Cast a poll across the industry tomorrow of which oil and gas OPCO enjoys the best reputation for competent project management and it’d be a fair bet Shell would be very close to the top. Despite the cost overruns and the other difficulties with the Sakhalin II project, it is not true to say that Shell’s reputation for competent project management is in ruins across the oil and gas industry.
So I checked back again today to see if the website’s author had made any kind of response. Oh boy, had he ever!
Beneath my mugshot is a description of me as follows:
Tim Newman, Shell Exploration & Production, Sakhalin II project
which unfortunately isn’t true. I don’t work for Shell Exploration & Production, nor indeed any other Shell affiliated company, and nor have I ever done so. The amount of time I’ve spent in the back of aircraft with my knees round my ears is testament to that.
So rather than getting a response to my comment, I have been exposed as “an insider” along with the invitation (see the Live Chat section) as follows:
We have updated the Tim Newman article with his photograph and blog details. Tim is from Shell E & P Sakhalin. We have invited him to author a detailed response to our articles on the Sakhalin II debacle which we would publish on an unedited basis. We have read some of your controversial blog comments Tim but you are articulate and we would like to hear more from you to put Shell’s side of the story about what went wrong.
Controversial blog comments? Me?! And I never got the invitation.
Then this has led to some rather odd follow-up comments on the Live Chat section, including:
Speaking as a colleague, I’ll bet that Tim wishes that he had never stuck his not inconsiderable head above the parapet. Nice comment to impress the likes of Chernyakhovskiy and Ian Craig but no cigar.
I’ve never heard of either chap, but I guess they’ll not be trying to recruit me onto their PR team anytime soon. Then we get:
Tim might be the insider and his comment just a smoke screen.
The insider being the Shell employee who is feeding the website with all the juicy stories! But alas no, it is not I, for the site’s author confirms that:
Just to remove any doubt we can categorically state that Tim Newman is not one of our insiders.
Indeed, he is not. The problem here has arisen because there is by pure coincidence a Tim Newman working for Shell in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk for Sakhalin Energy, and everybody has leaped to the conclusion that it was him who left the comment on the website. Indeed, occasionally this chap gets some emails intended for me (which is I suspect where the invitation to respond ended up) and he has on occasion forwarded them onto me, and now I may have gone and got him into trouble.
I have submitted an explanatory comment to the Tim Newman Expose Post, but the site’s spam filter has for some reason eaten it. Hopefully it will make it onto the site without too much delay, but in case it doesn’t I reproduce it below in full:
Rather than trying to discredit what I wrote by telling your readers I work for Shell Exploration & Production, you’d have been far better responding to the comment itself, i.e. by saying exactly why you disagree with what I have written.
Instead you have made a rather catastrophic blunder in assuming I work for Shell, and I do not. I have no connection whatsoever with Shell and I never have done. I am simply an oil and gas professional, albeit a rather outspoken one, who lives in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and disagrees with your assertion that Shell’s reputation for competent project management lies in ruins following the Sakhalin II project.
In the original post on which I commented you said that:
We genuinely welcome open and lively debate.
If you wish your readers to believe that this is true, surely it would have been a better course of action to respond properly to my criticism of your assertion rather than seeking to discredit me personally by branding me a Shell insider? After all, had my comment been written not by me but by a Shell employee, in what way would that have invalidated the point being made?
So there we have it. One simple comment on a website and before you know it I am being unmasked in public, accused of being “an insider”, having my insider credentials rebuffed by the highest authority, and I have virtually no chance of ever working for Shell in the future. The joys of blogging are endless!
One last thing: my namesake in Shell will might have some explaining to do, not least to Messrs. Chernyakhovskiy and Craig! I’d better send him a link to this, along with my unreserved apologies for any inconvenience this will cause him and my assurances that I foresaw none of this and never at any point implied that I was him, or any other Shell employee.
The blog’s author has issued a response here. So have I.