Size of Pearl workforce poses risks

16 May 2008
The UK/Dutch Shell Group has conceded that the sheer number of workers being hired to work on its estimated $18bn Pearl gas-to-liquids plant at Ras Laffan may make it difficult for contractors to hit productivity targets.

With companies staffing up during peak periods, the time taken to train this workforce is reducing productivity.

Andy Brown, country chairman for the energy group in Qatar, says with more than 35,000 workers expected during peak construction, the hi-tech plant will prove a stern test for some of the most high-profile international contractors which have been awarded deals.

“It is commonly known that there are more people working at Ras Laffan than we had envisaged a few years ago and that creates its own issues,” says Brown.

“We have about 25,000 working on the site [and] more than 35,000 people is our guidance, and it may yet be a few more than that.”

Brown says productivity and meeting deadlines is crucial for the client and the contractor.

“[For contractors], we will have payments against milestones and damages against late delivery,” he says. “It is one of those things that no one can argue with when you say you want to drive productivity [and] it is in their [contractors’] interests as well to get good productivity. We are working on that very hard but it is too early to say whether we are successful or not.”

Brown says the company is still “broadly in line” with its original budget band of $12-18bn, noting the cost per equivalent barrel of oil is still below Shell’s group average.

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