Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

BG Group corporate incubator for Shell strays?

“Nowhere in the flattering and in my judgement misleading CV for Finlayson is there any mention of the words safety, health or environment. It eulogises Finlayson for his optimising of production and operating performance, well that is what TFA was all about.”: “Anyway for fair reason or foul, Finlayson arrives, Carne leaves, Finlayson reaches the Board, Berget maybe gets his marching orders. Maybe all pals together they were keeping BG seats warm for the next Shell bum or maybe there was more to it as suggested, anyway it shows BG Advance as an entity acting as a corporate incubator for Shell strays?”

By Bill Campbell, retired HSE Group Auditor, Shell International

Post Piper Alpha it was readily apparent to Lord Cullen that the legislation pertaining to offshore oil and gas extraction was weak with regards to pinning down responsibility and accountability. At that time the statutory instrument SI 1019 made the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) specifically responsible for what happened offshore re health and safety.

SI 1019 essentially made the OIM Captain of the ship and Occidental Directors appeared on paper at least to be twice removed from how these issues were handled offshore on their installations.

Cullen wanted to changes this so his recommendations put into Law reduced the burden on the OIM and through the development of Safety Cases wished Operators to demonstrate the responsibility and accountability of the Board and its Directors for oversight and governance of its oil and gas extraction activities offshore from design of the installation to abandonment.

So in every Shell Safety Case, for every installation it operated such as Brent Bravo, there is reference to a Corporate Management System (CMS). This in simple terms explained what the high level Policy of the Company is and describes the Board directors who have specific accountabilities under the MD for offshore operations. It does not name the Director’s – it’s a generic document, but states the job title and accountabilities. In 1999 it had two principal Directorates, the Oil Director located in Aberdeen for Northern operations (Finlayson) and the Gas Director for operations in the Southern region based in Lowestoft.

The CMS makes it clear, as you would expect in a legally binding document that the Oil and Gas Directors were accountable for maintaining and adhering to Shell Policy and procedure and compliance with the Law in all it did offshore. The buck stopped with them and the MD who had oversight over their activities. These Directors visited offshore, were party to minutes of onshore and offshore safety meetings and were the recipients of internal audits carried out in their areas of accountability, which were then discussed at the Internal Audit Committee in which they were participants. They could not and should not have been able to plead corporate ignorance after the event or put the blame on workers at the coal face (as was the want of van der Veer, Finlayson and Brinded don’t sign permits, May 2005)

This avoided, or should have avoided, what Cullen expected, that after a major accident event there would be a trail to the said Director and it would be clear if that Director had exercised leadership and commitment to Safety or otherwise was culpable through neglect.

Brent Bravo would have been an example of Cullen’s brave new world in action but the system failed. I have explained many times why it failed, mainly because of the intervention of the then Oil Minister and the desire of the Scottish authorities to cover up this intervention, which had fatal consequences some 4 years later.

British Gas

It is noted that in the BG press release of 13th December 2012 the CV for Finlayson gives the job description Deputy MD of Shell UK E&P from 1998 till 2000. The CV states that he was responsible for the three Northern North Sea business Northern, Central and Southern but that is incorrect. At the time of the 1999 Audit he was Oil Director (UED) responsible for North and Central. Mark Carne (UEC) was the Central General Manager reporting to Finlayson but there was an American, (Botts) who was Gas Director for Southern ops based in Lowestoft.

It was in this role that he Finlayson made the false and misleading statements on 9th Sept 1999 to BBC Aberdeen, Colin Wight of the P&J, Jeremy Cresswell, and the Scotsman journalist Frank Urquart re Touch F*** All. The then Shell Expro Internal Audit Manager Gerbrand Moyes, myself and the senior auditor Ken Merry in a series of meetings could not get Finlayson to correct the statements made and this was highlighted in the final 1999 Audit presentation to management with UED, UES and UEC present as a major reputation risk should the truth ever get onto the streets.

Finlayson could not retract the statement he said because of the implications to both him and Shell but said that on 9th Sept 1999 he made the press comments in good faith having been given assurances on its accuracy by Jorn Berget, then the General Manager of Brent and his Deputy the Brent Asset Manager David Bayliss.

When interviewed by Stausholm and Sykes in early 2005 during the investigation into Brinded – Finlayson again reiterated that he had made the statement re TFA in 1999 in good faith but now accepted that the statement was incorrect – he had been misled by Berget and Bayliss.

BG appearing to be some sort of institution for Shell bad boys appointed Jorn Berget as executive VP for BG Advance on 12th Oct 2004 and Mark Carne as Executive VP on 7th March 2005.

Finlayson joined his old buddies at BG in August 2010 and joined the Board on 15th November 2011. The same press release on 15th November stated that Berget would step down from that position immediately and retire in 2012. Makes you wonder if dear Chris was exacting revenge or getting rid of deadwood.

And finally Finlayson on 13th December last is appointed CEO of BG Group.

Nowhere in the flattering and in my judgement misleading CV for Finlayson is there any mention of the words safety, health or environment. It eulogises Finlayson for his optimising of production and operating performance, well that is what TFA was all about.

Finlayson is quoted as having outstanding line operating experience. Such experience had its results in the now premature shutdown and planned abandonment of Brent. His inability to act, he appeared weak, out of his depth in 1999, unable to stand up to TFA Brinded and the founder member of the Rottweiler School of Business management David Bayliss, meant his inactions in 1999 contributed to the chronic failure of essential controls from 1998 to 2004 leading to the fatalities.

Left out a bit of the merry-go round story.

Mark Carne resigns after only a few months as Country Chairman for Shell Brunei in March 2005 to join BG as an Executive VP. Finlayson arrives at BG as an EVP in 2010 and Carne leaves shortly after in Sept 2010 to rejoin Shell as Country Chairman for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, a case of musical chairs or they do not like each other, after all Carne was the only guy who spoke out in 1999.

Note all three, Berget, Carne and Finlayson arrived in Aberdeen brought in from relative obscurity by their mentor Malcolm, his disciples we used to call them. They no doubt owed allegiance to Malcolm for their rapid promotion.

Interestingly I met Carne in 2005 during a bloody awful Audit of the Scott Oil Terminal in Brunei. Carne had issued a note congratulating the management and staff at the terminal for keeping oil flowing despite tanker delays. We found this was due to the guys standing on the tank roofs till the oil flowed out of the tell tale holes at the top of the tanks, some tanks showed stress and buckling. So he had unknowingly given them bonuses etc for breaking every rule in the book.

It was an embarrassment to him and as an unacceptable audit he was going to get it in the neck from his old boss TFA Brinded now Executive Director of Royal Dutch Shell. He wanted the Audit toned down but there was no way. I think this was one of the factors, which influenced his quick departure from Brunei.

Anyway for fair reason or foul, Finlayson arrives, Carne leaves, Finlayson reaches the Board, Berget maybe gets his marching orders. Maybe all pals together they were keeping BG seats warm for the next Shell bum or maybe there was more to it as suggested, anyway it shows BG Advance as an entity acting as a corporate incubator for Shell strays?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: