Shell CEO Wael Sawan has created a senior role of chief of staff as part of a management overhaul to improve performance after technical problems and disruptions including outages at the Prelude LNG facility, three company sources said.
The chief of staff, the first in Shell's 115-year-old history, is the biggest change Sawan has made to top management since he took office on Jan. 1 with a promise to boost the company's performance.
The role will involve coordinating and overseeing operations between Shell's different businesses to reduce costs and tackle performance issues that weighed on Shell's profits in recent years, the sources said. They asked to be anonymous because the information is not yet public.
Those problems included repeated outages at its Prelude LNG facility off the western coast of Australia and a major malfunction at its Pernis refinery in the Netherlands, Europe's largest, when supplies were strained in the initial aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.
Sawan announced the role of chief of staff and corporate relations in an internal memo last week, the sources said. The decision has not been previously reported.
A Shell spokesperson confirmed the role has been created, without adding details.
The chief of staff will not be a permanent member of Shell's executive committee, where major decisions are discussed, but will be able to take part in its meetings, the sources said.
The person named to the job will be made public at the end of March, along with senior appointments that will take effect on July 1, the sources said.
Leading candidates to the role include Katie Jackson, head of acquisitions and divestments, Richard Tallant, managing director of Qatar Shell and Australia country chair Tony Nunan, two of the sources said.
Sawan has said he will improve Shell's performance and efficiency as it attempts to shift towards low-carbon energy and cut greenhouse emissions in the coming decades.
"With fewer roles and greater accountability, simplifying decision-making, by building on our strength and focusing on performance and simplification, we intend to deliver compelling shareholder returns," Sawan said after Shell reported earlier this month record profits of $40 billion in 2022.
Shell plans to keep its capital spending largely unchanged at around $25 billion in 2023, but operating costs are set to rise as the costs of services increase, inflation stays high and recent acquisitions are integrated.
Sawan announced at the end of January a major change to Shell's structure, combining Shell's oil and gas production and LNG divisions under current Upstream Director Zoe Yujnovich. Renewable energy operations will come under oil refining and marketing operations led by current Downstream Director Huibert Vigeveno.
Shell last underwent a major overhaul at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when then-CEO Ben van Beurden cut more than 10% of the company's workforce as part of his push to steer the company towards energy transition.
Wael will officially announce Shell's long-term strategy in June.
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