Ron Oxburgh, chairman of Shell Oil: 'I'm really very worried for the planet'
Shell's problems came at the start of what is shaping up to be a defining year for the oil industry. Political upheaval in Venezuela and no signs of improvement in the Middle East have combined to send crude values soaring, and the prospect of the Â£1 per litre price at the petrol pump have seen oil prices join house prices on the front pages of Britain's newspapers.
If Oxburgh thinks this is a sign of things to come, he keeps it to himself. "People who have tried to predict the future of oil prices in the past have generally speaking got it very seriously wrong," he says.
"The one thing that is clear is that oil is getting harder to find, and as more obvious resources are discovered and exploited it's going to get progressively more difficult."
High prices could help. "What will happen is that you'll find oilfields or pockets that were previously not regarded as economic, as the price goes up will become economic. If the price of crude stayed at $30 to $40 a barrel for a long time, and the world economy could sustain that, then a lot of oil would become economically extractable that hasn't been."
"The other major consideration that we have to take into account is the greenhouse effect and global warming," he admits.
Oxburgh is more direct than the PR people further down the building might appreciate.
"No one can be comfortable at the prospect of continuing to pump out the amounts of carbon dioxide that we are at present," he says. "People are going to go on allowing this atmospheric carbon dioxide to build up, with consequences that we really can't predict, but are probably not good."