United States: Brent Bravo Unlawful Deaths Scandal Returns To Haunt Royal Dutch Shell

Last Updated: March 5 2007

By John Alfred Donovan

*Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer issues Letter of Censure to Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director of Shell EP

Introductory comments by John Alfred Donovan: 5 March 2007

On 1 March 2007, I sent an email to Terry Macalister at The Guardian newspaper bringing his attention to developments relating to Shell’s safety record in its North Sea operations. On 5 March, The Guardian newspaper published an article under the headline: "Shell safety record in North Sea takes a hammering".

The following are extracts from the article: http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2026499,00.html

"Shell has been repeatedly warned by the Health and Safety Executive about the poor state of its North Sea platforms, according to information obtained by the Guardian."

"The company's dismal record undermines Shell's public commitment to improve its performance after a fatal explosion on the Brent field in the North Sea in 2003 and raises further concerns about Britain's ageing oil and gas equipment."

"Last year, Shell was embarrassed when Bill Campbell, one of its senior safety consultants, claimed the company was operating a weak safety regime and said some employees had been falsifying documents. Shell denied the charges, but Mr Campbell has been threatening the company with a defamation case."

Our own article below provides a detailed account of the heroic efforts by Bill Campbell to change a corrupted safely culture at Shell where profits are given a higher priority than the lives of Shell oil platform workers. Campbell has tenaciously pursued his crusade despite an underhand malicious campaign by Shell management to ruin his reputation.

Links to important Brent Bravo scandal documents authored by Bill Campbell, former Shell International Group Auditor.

  1. The Making of Amends: http://www.shellnews.net/2007/shell-making-of-amends-february-2007.html
  2. Assessment of Residual Risk Levels on Brent Bravo: http://www.shellnews.net/2007/Brent%20B%20Risk%20Levels.pdf
  3. Progress with Safety? Fact or Fiction: http://www.shellnews.net/2007/Progress%20with%20Safety%20-%20Fact%20or%20Fiction.pdf

As will be seen, Shell senior management is already well aware of the main thrust of the article, which perhaps explains a miserable and tired Malcolm Brinded spotted last week eating in the canteen in Rijswijk.

Abbreviations used in the above documents and in the article.

PSMR = Platform Safety Management Review
SGBP = Shell General Business Principles
ALARP = As Low As Reasonably Possible
LoR = Letter of Representation
ESDV = Emergency Shut Down Valve
HSE = Health & Safety Executive
TFA = Touch Fuck All (Shell production before safety maintenance policy on North Sea oil rigs)

Our Article: Brent Bravo unlawful deaths scandal returns to haunt Shell

By John Alfred Donovan

In August 2006, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek "Open Letter" to Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer about the Brent Bravo scandal asking...

ShellNews.net: When is Shell going to sue former Shell International Group Auditor Bill Campbell for defamation? (http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2006/08/09/shellnewsnet-when-is-shell-going-to-sue-former-shell-international-group-auditor-bill-campbell-for-defamation/)

It appears that I should have addressed the question to Bill Campbell asking when HE would be issuing defamation proceedings against Shell. He is currently preparing to issue a libel action against Shell following the breakdown of a mediation process which has been secretly going on behind the scenes for some time.

While it seemed to the outside world that the repercussions of the Brent Bravo scandal had subsided, with media focus switched to BP’s troubles, Shell has in fact been trying to keep a lid on sensitive information emerging relating to the untimely deaths of innocent Brent Bravo workers. Sensitive because the machinations personally involve Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer and Malcolm Brinded, the Executive Director of Shell Exploration & Production. As will become clear, Brinded had a vested interest in trying to cover-up past events.

Campbell decided to make a principled stand against unprincipled Shell executives who failed to deal competently and ethically with corrupted safety procedures exposed in a safety audit of the Brent Bravo North Sea oil platform led by Campbell. Shell typically reacted with threats and a campaign to discredit him followed by an attempt to pacify Campbell when their reprehensible tactics were exposed. Apparently Shell forgot that Campbell retains the support of many Shell insiders.

From reading the Campbell documents supplied to us by a source (not Bill Campbell), it is obvious that Campbell was shaken to his core by the way Shell management savagely turned on him after he acted in accordance with Shell’s core business principles, which have been promoted over the years in global advertising campaigns. Campbell had been convinced that Shell management meant what it said about honesty, integrity and respect for Shell employees.

He was taken in, like others before him, by the high moral tone of Shell’s propaganda (the SGBP) directed at a gullible public. The point arrived when the penny finally dropped and Campbell realised that the great company he loves is now run by charlatans who, contrary to the PR hype and spin, put profits and personal gain before principles.

Campbell discovered the harsh reality: an astonishing true story of deceit, deception, coercion, malice, corruption, libel, treachery, cover-up (with vital documents, by coincidence or otherwise, conveniently disappearing like magic from more one location) and above all, breathtaking hypocrisy e.g. the unprincipled actions of Shell management, completely at odds with the pious pledges in the SGBP.

Relevant events also involve other Shell directors, senior managers and officials including Tom Botts, Jakob Stausholm, Richard Sykes, Chris Finlayson, Keith Ruddock, Peter Wyatt, Kieron McFadyen, Bob Sprague, James Smith, Greg Hill and David Bayliss.

Because of the importance of the matters covered in this article, we emailed extracts to Keith Ruddock, Shell International General Counsel for Exploration and Production with an offer to supply the complete draft article.

You will see from the email correspondence which was all between me (John Donovan) and Mr Ruddock that both parties, Bill Campbell and Shell, entered into a "Making of Amends" process. This involved Shell making amends to Mr Campbell, not the other way round. In this connection, the main focus of the discussion was on a "Letter of Censure" sent by Jeroen van der Veer to Brinded. Mr Ruddock stated in one email: "I do not believe that there is any basis for you including reference to any such purported communication in your article." Unfortunately for Mr Ruddock, there is irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

Click on the link below to read a selection of the email correspondence, which includes, on an unedited basis, all of the comments made by Mr Ruddock – every single word. The correspondence ended on 1 March 2007. This is an extract from my closing email to Mr Ruddock: "With the greatest respect, instead of the bobbing and weaving you could have simply stated that in the context of the above subject there has been no letter that could be construed as a Letter of Censure. The fact that you are unable to make an unambiguous denial along these lines speaks volumes."

Email correspondence with Shell: http://www.shellnews.net/2007/email-correspondence-with-shell-in-february-2007.html

People at Shell who know Mr Campbell will no doubt bear in mind his unblemished reputation with regards to transparency, integrity and honesty. For an independent unbiased report on Shell's reputation, check out:

We also sent the draft article (and associated documents) to a Shell insider with considerable expertise. We have inserted in bold print, in brackets, comments made by the relevant individual, who, like Bill Campbell, has an emotional attachment to Shell as a great company, while being thoroughly disenchanted by its mendacious incompetent senior management.

One last point to stress: this article is not based on the ramblings of some inexperienced junior manager but on the reluctant disclosures of a meticulous person of the very highest integrity who occupied a position as Shell International Group Auditor based in The Hague. Campbell dealt personally with senior executives and tried extremely hard over a period of years to persuade Shell management to properly address legitimate concerns for the safety of Shell workers and contractors. As will become apparent, his efforts were thwarted by Malcolm Brinded. What we have termed as a blind eye culture by Shell senior management has been memorably described by Campbell as "a hostile environment of extreme denial". This attitude resulted in the tragic deaths on Brent Bravo. Campbell now joins the ranks of those threatened by Shell for telling the unpalatable truth.


The Brent Bravo scandal relates to the events connected to the record breaking £900,000 fine imposed on Shell for breaches of health and safety regulations which resulted in the tragic deaths in 2003 of two oil rig workers on the Brent Bravo platform. Sean McCue, 22, from Fife, and Keith Moncrieff, aged 45, from Tayside. Both were overcome by a large release of hydrocarbon gas.

The story begun in 1999 when Bill Campbell was a technical specialist employed at the Technology Research and Development Centre, in Rijswijk.

He was also employed as a part-time consultant for the EP HSE department in The Hague and in this capacity was asked to act as the Lead Auditor of a Platform Safety Management Review (PSMR) carried out in Shell Expro in 1999. He was one of a team of five investigators – himself and four employees of Shell Expro (as it was then known).

The PSMR was commissioned because Shell had already experienced a number of serious incidents which fell within the remit of the Health & Safety Executive (the "HSE"). (Campbell’s audit was one of several that also had unsatisfactory scores)

Brent Asset Manager David Bayliss was interviewed by Campbell and other audit team members. Bayliss admitted his role in a policy in which maintenance documents had been falsified and safety procedures ignored. Basically production targets (i.e. profits) were given a higher priority than the safety and lives of the platform workers. Bayliss blamed the then Shell Expro Managing Director, Malcolm Brinded, for putting him under intolerable pressure.

The subsequent Shell Expro internal audit report stated that "violations include falsification of maintenance records for safety critical equipment" and cited "inappropriate attitude, skills and behaviour" and "non-compliance with routine maintenance" was common. (All this is correct)

It also revealed that Shell offshore workers used a memorable acronym "TFA" (Touch Fuck All) to act as a powerful reminder to everyone involved that no one should meddle with equipment, but keep things working. The report concluded: "Directives such as TFA encourages a behaviour of non-compliance - the Brent TFA acronym is a potential reputation liability."

In 1999Brinded dismissed Campbell as the PSMR Lead Auditor on the grounds that the Brent Management team would not be receptive to his involvement in the audit follow-up and planning of remedial action. Their reaction was predictable given that Campbell had requested their suspension from duty.

However, Brinded should have backed Campbell rather than the managers involved in the corner-cutting of vital safety procedures. This was not the first time that Brinded had chosen to support serious misconduct by Shell managers instead of honouring the pledges in the SGBP.

A disillusioned Campbell returned to The Hague and attempted through the EP HSE Manager and the Regional Director to get action taken against Shell Expro but he made little progress. Campbell retired from Shell in 2002.

He was subsequently employed by SIEP on a part-time basis as a consultant from 2003 until 2006 and led, or was involved, in six major "HSE-MS" audits. The less charitable may take the view that the part-time work may have been part of a ploy to mollify and control Campbell.

However, Campbell remained dissatisfied, particularly when in September 2003 he heard about the deaths, by the lack of adequate remedial action in response to the PSMR Report and has subsequently been quoted as saying that "Running Brent was just like flying an aircraft with one engine. You knew the consequences if the second engine failed but you just accepted it. The whole safety ethos was built on a basis of sand."

In September to November 2003, after the tragic deaths arising from the corrupted safety culture (this is all very very true, it was a result of systemic failure, hence the responsibility of the management, NOBODY ELSE!!!) the company carried out its own investigation into Technical Integrity status of 18 offshore installations including Brent Bravo.

Internal Shell documents from this integrity review detailed 472 temporary repairs on its platforms, of which almost half, 214, were "not approved" by the Company technical authorities.

In late 2004 Campbell, who worked for Shell for 24 years, made representations to Shell management alleging a lack of follow-up to the PSMR. A number of extremely serious allegations made by Campbell were published in the news media and in trade publications including, for example, Upstream Online.

He alleged that ESD valve leak-off tests on Brent Bravo were "purposely falsified", not once but many times. He claimed that the inaction of the relevant Asset Manager, the General Manager, the Oil Director and the Shell Expro Managing Director in 1999 (Malcolm Brinded), contributed to the unlawful deaths of the two innocent men on Brent Bravo in September 2003, who had placed their trust in Shell.

The allegations understandably carried a great deal of weight because of Campbell’s reputation as SIEP Group Auditor and the fact that he was the Lead Auditor in the 1999 investigation.

In response to the allegations, Shell maliciously issued press releases to the news media and circulated an internal communiqué on a global basis to Shell EP staff, basically branding him as a liar. Campbell considered that the defamatory comments amounted to character assignation. This was of course a terrible reward for a long and honourable career at Shell. (John as I have told you before, Campbell has a lot of support, he has a very high standing with the troops)

In April 2005, Shell was fined £900,000 at the Stonehaven Sheriff Court after admitting three breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to the deaths in 2003. This again was a complete and utter vindication of the concerns expressed by Campbell four years previously, prior to the preventable deaths. It was reportedly the biggest fine ever imposed on a company following a North Sea accident. A demand by the offshore union OILC, for a Fatal Accident Inquiry was turned down at the time, but the decision was later reversed.

In 2005, a further detailed Shell internal investigation was launched under the auspices of the Group Legal Counsel. It was headed by Shell's chief internal auditor, Jakob Stausholm. Campbell participated in the investigation and was subsequently advised that his contribution was valuable.

On July 18, 2006, a Fatal Accident Inquiry in Aberdeen concluded that Shell might have prevented the death of two oil workers if it had properly repaired a hole in a corroding pipeline on the Brent Bravo platform and that there were also "defects in the system of working" (this is the most damning statement because it hits at management, a valve can fail occasionally but a system is set up and controlled and should not fail) that had contributed to the tragedy. Campbell was not allowed to put his evidence to the FAI

In September 2006, Campbell notified Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer of his intention to launch defamation proceedings against Shell but was prepared to attempt to reach a settlement out of court, through the aforementioned "Making of Amends" process.

Campbell withdrew from "The Making of Amends" process on 26 January 2007 on what he considers to be an issue of principle when an agreed Draft statement to go out to the EP worldwide population was further amended by Shell.

Analysis of the attached documents indicates that Campbell had legitimate grounds in respect of his allegations of wrongdoing by Shell management and for demanding restitution of his good name and reputation. As is abundantly clear from the documents, Campbell is making a principled stand.

Unfortunately he is dealing with some unprincipled individuals who put ego, power, and money above integrity.

Some points emerging from the Campbell documents.

  • Campbell says that Shell’s Chief Internal Auditor, Jakob Stausholm, admitted to him that the allegations made by Shell against Campbell in the releases were known by him (Stausholm) to be "false and misleading".
  • Stausholm also clearly stated in the same conversation from June 2004 that the EP internal communiqué did not take into account factual evidence from his investigation report. The evidence was ignored as a conscious decision to strengthen the rebuttal to allegations attributed to Campbell in an article published by UpstreamOnline. Stausholm accepted that this had the secondary effect of punishing Campbell.
  • In the same conversation, Stausholm disassociated himself and his colleague, Richard Sykes, the EP Group Environmental Advisor, from the formation of the wording in the press release and EP internal communiqué. Campbell has irrefutable evidence confirming all of the admissions made by Stausholm.
  • Missing files: Campbell says that files held in the Internal Audit department in Aberdeen and at the EPS-HE library in The Hague relating to the PSMR disappeared. Related records of interviews with senior Brent Bravo management when important admittances were made had also conveniently disappeared. The same applied to logbooks, maintenance records, statements by inspectors etc.
  • That contrary to Shell press statements no audit was carried out on Brent Bravo in 2000.
  • Jeroen van der Veer has sent a Letter of Censure to Brinded. (I did not know this, pretty hot stuff!!!) It concluded that Brinded was wrong to dismiss Campbell as SIEP Lead Auditor. Brinded was also required to apologise personally to PSMR team members. A note to be issued by Brinded to EP staff and audit professionals was drafted. The tone implied that Brinded was on first name terms with "Bill". In fact they had not spoken for a decade.
  • Kieron McFayden admitted at a meeting with Campbell in the presence of a witness, David Richmond (a retired Shell platform manager), that when he learned about the "touch fuck all" policy, he was "thoroughly ashamed".
  • Campbell says: "I have been thoroughly sickened by the whole process that a Company with such published principles and standards can lie, cheat, falsify and corrupt and defame the character of a respected employee who has been commended various times throughout his long career."

Campbell has continued to publicly campaign about the alleged disregard for safety out of concern that unless past wrongdoing is exposed and culprits punished, another major accident is inevitable and that more preventable deaths will be the outcome.

It is relevant to point out that the fortunes of BP have suffered a huge setback due to the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 which killed 15 people and injured 500. One can only speculate about the repercussions on Shell executives, such as Brinded, if the Brent Bravo scandal had involved death and injury on a similar scale, bearing in mind that the degree of management negligence in the case of Shell was arguably worse. Brinded did not just ignore the warnings from Campbell about safety irregularities, he got rid of him.

It was stated in a recent article about the downfall of the energy giant Enron that "a significant minority of people at Enron lost their moral compass". This description unfortunately also applies to some Shell executives. Comments in the same Bloomberg article (link below) allege that Enron management ignored the advice of their own experts. This again also applies to Shell. Enron directors committed fraud, likewise, Shell directors (the reserves fraud). Let’s hope that the similarities go no further.

We will conclude the article with one final comment from the Shell insider (about Shell senior management):

("They have not come to grips with the fact that some employees have genuine principles: ‘until here and no further’ and believe everyone is like them. I hope Bill Campbell pushes his case forward and being a principled Scotsman, I think he will.")

Disclaimer: The author (John Alfred Donovan) ShellNews.net and the website www.royaldutchshellplc.com are not endorsed by Royal Dutch Shell Plc or affiliated with them in any way.' For more information about the author and the website go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royaldutchshellplc.com

© 2007 ShellNews.net

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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