Ex-Shell chief may run Iraq oil plan

April 1, 2003, 10:41PM
New York Times

A former chief executive of the Shell Oil Co. appears to be the leading contender to oversee the Iraqi oil industry after the fall of Saddam Hussein, industry experts who had spoken to the Bush administration said on Tuesday.

Those experts said the administration was still developing a plan for American involvement in the Iraqi oil sector, whose fields and facilities are dilapidated but whose employees are widely respected for their professionalism within international oil circles.

They said it appears that the executive, Philip J. Carroll, 65, would probably be responsible for Iraqi oil production, and that someone else would probably be named to run the refining and marketing of Iraqi oil.

After leaving Shell, Carroll went to run the giant construction company Fluor Corp.

He retired from Fluor in February 2002 and now lives in Houston.

Fluor, which is based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., confirmed recently that it was invited by the administration to bid on reconstruction work in Iraq, though it is unclear whether the company has been awarded any contracts.

The Bush administration has long insisted that the sale of Iraqi oil will benefit the Iraqis themselves.

But reviving the Iraqi oil industry, under the scrutiny of a skeptical world and the Iraqis themselves, will be a formidable task, industry experts said.

The administration and Carroll declined to comment on the possibility of his appointment to the oil post.

If the administration does tap Carroll, it will be relying on a career oil man who thrives on challenges, industry analysts said. Many analysts credit Carroll for reshaping Shell Oil, the American arm of Royal Dutch/Shell group, when he ran it in the 1990s, mainly by pushing the company to develop large reservoirs of oil and natural gas in the risky but potentially rich deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

At Fluor, Carroll quickly got rid of unprofitable old businesses and found promising new ones, said Michael S. Dudas, engineering analyst for Bear, Stearns & Co.

Dudas said Carroll was known for pulling together competent people to carry out major restructuring plans without micromanaging them, a trait that would serve him well if the administration decides to let the Iraqis control their oil.

“He would get very good people and check in with them frequently,” Dudas said.

“He would put the plan in place, but he would let them run with it.”

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