Safely opening up energy resources several kilometres below the ocean’s surface poses major technical challenges due to immense water pressure and freezing temperatures. In addition to advanced technologies, drilling and operating wells demands strict safety procedures and rigorous design, construction and maintenance standards.

Real-time monitoring

From well construction to daily operations, we monitor deep-water wells in real time using advanced sensors. This allows engineers and geologists to continuously assess conditions, identify potential risks and respond immediately, while in consultation with the drilling rig or platform crew.

In the unlikely event of an incident our underwater wells can be “capped” (sealed) and the flow controlled, either by shutting in the well or containing the oil flow.

Download the Ready to respond brochure

Competent people

Designing, drilling, operating and maintaining wells is a demanding job and safety is critical. 

Our engineers must complete a four-year training programme, in addition to their bachelor’s or master’s degree. The training includes detailed modules on safety, deep-water drilling and simulation of well control incidents. Simulators allow trainees to practice managing incidents, such as a surge of high pressure gas to the surface.

Learn more about how we are training engineers to drill wells to the highest safety standards In Malaysia 

Pooling our resources and expertise

Following the BP Deepwater Horizon incident in April 2010, we formed a non-profit consortium with eight other oil and gas companies to enhance drilling safety and minimise the environmental impact of a potential underwater well incident: the Subsea Well Response Project. 

Members have pooled their expertise and resources to develop equipment which can be stored and, in the unlikely event of an incident, quickly deployed. Equipment includes capping systems which can seal a well at a depth of up to 3,000 metres (9,800 feet), along with dispersant and containment equipment. The consortium is supported by Oil Spill Response Limited, the world’s leading oil spill response organisation, which is making the equipment widely available.

In July 2010 Shell and three other oil and gas companies formed the Marine Well Containment Company (MWCC) to provide a rapid-response system for oil fields in the US Gulf of Mexico. 

In 2012 MWCC lowered a seven-metre tall capping stack more than 2,000 metres (over 6,500 feet) onto a well to demonstrate its capability. Shell volunteered to perform the drill, working closely with federal regulators. The exercise successfully demonstrated the industry’s ability to respond to a well-control incident. MWCC now has 10 member companies.

In March 2011, after the US temporary ban on deep-water drilling was lifted, we were the first oil and gas company to be awarded a permit to drill a new exploration well in the Gulf of Mexico: the Cardamom deep-water development started production in 2014. 

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We are committed to delivering energy responsibly and safely, preventing harm to our employees, contractors, local communities and the environment.