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Why Vice President Neil Gilmour remains a geologist at heart
Neil Gilmour explains why working on some of the industry’s most important integrated gas projects gives him an enormous sense of accomplishment.
I had a very enthusiastic, rather strange teacher
As Vice President of Development in the Global Integrated Gas Business, Neil Gilmour has a hand in some of Shell’s largest projects. It’s the scale and impact these projects have across the industry that makes them so substantial, but Neil’s passion for geology and the energy industry has far more humble beginnings.
“I had a very enthusiastic, rather strange teacher who, instead of teaching geology from a book, actually took us out into the field,” Neil explains. “I remember standing on a riverbed in a very unprepossessing place in the west of Scotland and him saying, ‘In the Carboniferous, it was like this’ and me thinking, ‘Wow!’”
After completing a geology degree at the University of Glasgow and a Master’s in Exploration Geophysics at the University of Leeds, he joined Shell and spent 10 years working in subsurface exploration and production. Neil then moved into a number of more commercially focused roles before being appointed to his current role in the gas business. It’s a role he feels suits him because it mixes commercial, technical and long-term innovation with forming and developing worldwide relationships.
Listening to the needs of a global network
Today, Neil works on projects and facilities spread across the world, where he deals with multiple teams. Having a hands-on approach when dealing with the variety of people he works with is an important and essential part of how he builds good relationships. “I think it’s very difficult to build relationships with people unless you meet them in person and listen to what their needs are,” says Neil.
His efforts to build lasting, face-to-face relationships mean that Neil is extraordinarily well-travelled. During the next months he will travel to an LNG Canada site in British Columbia, the Netherlands, Moscow and Tokyo, while recent months have seen him visit staff at sites in Qatar, on New Zealand’s South Island, and external events in Malaysia and Korea.
An immense opportunity to make a difference
Throughout his progression in Shell, Neil’s been driven by simple goals. “I’ve always taken jobs I found really interesting,” he says. “Whether it was working as a geologist in south-east Turkey, helping acquire Enterprise Oil, running the PetroChina Strategic Alliance or working on Prelude FLNG (floating liquefied natural gas), I always got to do things that felt somewhere between a privilege and an immense opportunity to make a difference.”
Working on some of the largest and most complex projects in the industry, the impact that he and his team in Integrated Gas have is massive – it provides energy for around 100 million people every day.
The personal feeling of achievement that Neil has for everything he’s been a part of is easily apparent, but one moment during his time working on Prelude FLNG in particular stands out.
I stood on the top side of Prelude with our former CEO Peter Voser, and I don’t think that I’ve ever been as proud of my time as I was then. The sense of accomplishment was awesome.
Joy of deployment
The work being done in Qatar at Pearl GTL, from the excellent safety record to the contribution to the Qatari nation, is another source of pride for Neil. But he doesn’t only draw inspiration from Shell’s large-scale projects. Last year Neil visited the Ormen Lange site in Norway, a production facility that supplies as much as 20% of the UK’s gas.
A decade before he stood in the same spot, but the outlook was vastly different: there was no Ormen Lange, just seismic images and bumps. “To go and visit the plant and see the deployment, and to know that it helps keep my mum warm and dry in Scotland… How cool is that?” That process of building and start-up is where his personal passion lies, more so than the design phase.
It’s the joy of deployment, not just the joy of inventing things.
Leaving a great legacy
Neil has another two years in his current role before thinking about his future. For now, he is happy to set his sights on building on the existing successes of Shell’s gas business. “I really want to make a success of the role. I’d like to do it in such a way that I leave a great legacy of people, projects and external relationships.”
Despite his broad responsibility, his global team and the portfolio of projects he oversees across the industry, his interests haven’t changed over the years. At heart he’s still a geologist.
I still pick up rocks whenever I’m standing on a beach and wonder where they’ve come from.