Shell – Team Building on a Deepwater Offshore Oil Rig
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6 Ways to Optimize Performance Through Openness & Accountability

By: TSC Team

Shell Exploration and Production Company drilling superintendent Rick Fox faced two of his toughest challenges with Ram Powell and URSA. Beginning with the former, he was tasked with manning a team comprised of 73% non-locals, giving him a group lacking the shared culture of typical Shell offshore teams. By leveraging The Human Element, Fox was able to create a unifying culture and language, giving the team the means to exceed performance, safety, and environmental standards. He was then able to apply his Human Element training to the following URSA development to turn a project that was eight months behind schedule with $250 million worth of lost work into a model rig.


Shell Exploration and Production Company


Orchestrating successful launches of both Ram Powell and URSA.

Ram Powell was a new deepwater offshore development rig for Shell. The project was on an accelerated schedule and lacked the local personnel to be properly manned. Hence, the team would consist of 73% non-local hires, a first for Shell, which stirred communication issues, cultural differences, and inconsistencies.

URSA was Shell’s largest and most ambitious deepwater offshore development rig. URSA’s deep oil field would provide a degree of drilling difficulties not encountered with previous rigs. Shell also lost URSA’s original drilling location, giving the team the burden of drilling nearly all the wells from scratch. This more than doubled the projected time before each well was in production.


With The Human Element, Shell was able to break production records on both Ram Powell and URSA.

Ram Powell: By finding a common language through The Human Element, the team overcame their communication and cultural differences. As a result, Ram Powell set records for both reliability and performance. The rig’s up-time, “a calculation of how much oil or gas a rig produces versus how much it could have,” was 97%, when it was originally designed for 85%, making it the best first-year up-time performance of any tension-leg platform. Up-time above and beyond 85% was attributed to the skill, talent, and creativity of the team operating Ram Powell, and how they cooperated while doing so. Ram Powell also exceeded expectations in its safety and environmental standards performance.

URSA: URSA was operational and in production 4 months ahead of the recovery plan schedule, saving the company $40 million. URSA’s first year up-time surpassed that of Ram Powell’s, sitting at 99%. Its production also exceeded predictions by more than 14 million barrels in that time.


All 25 leaders attended 4-day Human Element Workshops. In addition, 60 other employees attended Human Element workshops as well and on-site consultation continued after workshop conclusion.


Terry Gregory, Ailish Schutz, Nan Wydler, Licensed Human Element Practitioners, Will Schutz Associates


United States of America

Download the Shell Oil Case Study and consider how you can use The Human Element to enhance your company culture and boost your productivity.