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Leaked Shell internal emails reveal concern over Corrib subsea wells

By John Donovan

Published below is my self-explanatory correspondence with Royal Dutch Shell ethics boss Richard Wiseman, over the latest installment of leaked Shell internal emails, this time relating to the highly sensitive topic of the Corrib Gas Project in Ireland. More will follow.

The project has been dogged by controversy, including the jailing at Shell’s behest of the “Rossport Five” – members of the local population who have deep concern over safety and other issues.

The string of Shell internal emails from March and April 2009, involve over half a dozen Shell employees and includes reference to senior Shell executives. The Shell people involved discuss concern over well ownership and issues relating to “long term suspension” of “subsea gas wells”.

In this connection, one email says:

“In this case, risk may be mainly reputational rather than safety or environmental (subsea gas wells).”

Note that it says “may be” mainly reputational.  In other words, the risk could be to safety or the environment.

In view of recent events in the Gulf of Mexico and the just announced delay on the Corrib project resulting in a further 3 year extension of “long term suspension”, the local population is likely to be alarmed at these revelations of internal concern at Shell that has not revealed to the public.

MY EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE WITH SHELL

EMAIL TO RICHARD WISEMAN, CHIEF ETHICS & COMPLIANCE OFFICER, ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC

From: John Donovan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 21 July 2010 12:00
To: Wiseman, Richard M RDS-LSX
Subject: Question-mark over ownership of Corrib wells

Dear Mr Wiseman

We have reason to believe that the leaked Shell internal emails below are authentic.

If you do not indicate otherwise within 24 hours, we will take the lack of a denial as confirmation of authenticity.

If you wish to supply any comment for unedited publication along with the emails, you are welcome to do so.

If you need more time to check this matter out, just let me know. As always our first priority is publishing accurate authentic information.

If there is any exceptional reason why we should not publish, please say so. As you know, on both occasions that Shell has asked us not to publish, indicating exceptional grounds, we have agreed not to do so. This will be our continuing policy.

Regards
John Donovan

REPLY FROM RICHARD WISEMAN

From: [email protected]
Date: 21 July 2010 16:50:33 GMT+01:00
To: [email protected]
Subject: RE: Question-mark over ownership of Corrib wells

Dear Mr Donovan

As ever, you should not take my silence to be an admission of authenticity.  I am surprised that you continue to try to force an admission by default.  I can by no means guarantee always to receive your emails within 24 hours of your sending them and in the interests of the accuracy and authenticity you claim to adhere to, I should have thought that you would never rely on silence as confirmation of your assertions, particularly in the light of the repeated requests from me and others that you do not do so.

Regards
Richard Wiseman

Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer
Royal Dutch Shell plc
Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA

Registered in England and Wales number 4366849
Registered Office:  Shell Centre, London, SE1
Headquarters: Carel van Bylandtlaan 30, 2596 HR
The Hague, The Netherlands

Email: [email protected]
Internet: http://www.shell.com

RESPONSE BY JOHN DONOVAN 21 JULY 2010

From: John Donovan <[email protected]>
Date: 21 July 2010 21:28:13 GMT+01:00
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Question-mark over ownership of Corrib wells

Dear Mr Wiseman

As I made plain, you only had to let me know if you needed more time to investigate. Whenever Shell has asked for more time to respond, we have always agreed.

Readers of the correspondence will be able to draw their own conclusions for your “silence” over the authenticity of the latest crop of Shell internal emails, as I do. Readers will also be able to draw their own conclusions about who is trying to be open, constructive and fair.

As I have stated previously, you are free to say that Shell would like us to cease giving the company the opportunity to comment on draft articles or on the authenticity of Shell internal documents and emails leaked to us. If you tell us that this is the case, then we will cease.

Thus far, Shell has preferred to retain the option to have advance sight of such information and be able to comment, as Shell has done several times, or decline to comment, which is the most frequent response. Knowing as I do, certain matters in the pipeline for publication in the coming weeks, now would not be a good time for Shell to give up this facility, but the decision is yours. Having had dealings with us for getting on to two decades, you know that we would not wish to be a nuisance to Shell.

Regards
John Donovan

EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE ENDS

I also supplied the Shell internal correspondence to some individuals with expertise in such matters.

FIRST RESPONSE

Hello John

Nice string of emails, lots of egg on the face of Shell.

I am certain they are all genuine.

The issue clearly is that there is no well defined owner of these assets. In my view this is criminal because in case of an emergency one needs action fast and if there is no owner they all will be waiting on each other. Very clear that this has slipped through the cracks. It is possible that WE (I assume Well Engineering) is still the owner since the wells have never produced (I assume?). But normally drilling hands over in a formal and documented way the ownership of the wells after these are completed.

It also is very clear that there is confusion as to the status of the wells. In short, you have just uncovered a great mess and Shell Europe should be very ashamed of itself not to have found this out themselves and rectified it the same day, now it is because some minions with their heart in the right place are taking some belated action. The head honchos obviously were too busy following Voser’s decree to reduce staff, never mind the consequences….

This is going to be interesting. Perhaps you should ask how come there is no asset holder. How come this was not discovered in one of the great many audits on every topic one can think of. (Head office bureaucrats need to be kept busy after all). Clear example of ‘me first, business later’.  Sounds familiar?

If someone does not get sacked over this or severely reprimanded, it would show that Shell has lost its basic control mechanisms! But what do you expect with beancounters and HR people in charge of a technical business?

A concerned Shell retiree.

EXTRACTS FROM SECOND RESPONSE

The fact that people are expressing concern that there seems to be an implied shortcoming is in itself proof that there are some good people in Shell going above and beyond their allocated duties.

This is definitely another classic example of the quote from inside Shell: “95% of Shell staff are honest, ethical and extremely competent. Unfortunately the other 5% are in senior management positions”

I’m not saying that what has happened is completely kosher, but the names of the people expressing concern in the emails are not the villains – please don’t shoot the messengers!

Bearing in mind the above plea, we have decided not to publish the emails but will be supplying them to a third party for investigation.

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