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John Donovan 2017, still Shell’s nightmare

John Donovan in 2009. On its website, this former adman has posted more than 25,000 items on oil giant Shell. Reuters

My website royaldutchshellplc.com has been described by the FT as an open wound for Shell. That remains the case five years after the article extracts featured above and below. We still publish and feed to the mainstream media information leaked to us by Shell insiders. Most recently, an 88 page consultative document containing nothing less than Shell’s Global Transformation plans. We also regularly publish legal documents involving Shell that would otherwise be hidden was from preying eyes behind a paywall.

The website now contains over 30,000 articles and has been the subject of over a million blocked malicious login attempts and an investigation by a specials UK police unit of ‘denial of service’ attacks by an unknown party with deep pockets. Our sister websites shellnews.net and royaldutchshellgroup.com also contain tens of thousands of Shell related articles, with some duplication.

EXTRACTS FROM AN ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE GERMAN BROADSHEET NEWSPAPER SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG MUNICH

Thanks to a network of “moles” inside the company, this early retiree from Britain is posting on his website reports on shortcomings inside the world’s largest oil group. It’s a dogged pursuit that has already cost the Anglo-Dutch giant several billions.

For more than ten years John Donovan has been running the www.royaldutchshellplc.com website, where he posts reports on the wrongdoing of the Anglo-Dutch group, and he has written at least 25,000 articles. More than 20 senior Shell insiders regularly feed him information. Never before has the inner machinery of a global group been so well documented as that of Shell.

John Donovan has put pressure on a group with an annual turnover of $380 billion, which is more than the gross domestic product of countries such as Denmark and Thailand. Without John Donovan’s website out there, the revenues would probably be even higher.

If you ask about John Donovan at Shell, the communications professionals stay tight-lipped: “No interviews! No comment!” Internal e-mails reveal the fear. On 15 July 2009, at 5:16 p.m. London time, a Shell manager wrote: “This website has already cost our company many billions in revenue. Is there any plan to shut it down?” Corporate security and corporate communications monitor John Donovan’s website on the weekends as well.

How dangerous the early retiree Donovan turned out to be started to become evident to Shell on 25 November 2005. “It was my letter to Putin,” he says. “I really hit Shell hard with it.” In the e-mail, he informed the Russian government in detail about lax safety standards in Shell’s Sakhalin-II 2 oil-drilling project. Shell was then the majority leader of a joint venture with the Russian oil company Gazprom. The joint oil field in eastern Siberia is one of Shell’s most important projects, pumping out 180,000 barrels of crude per day and 9.6 million tonnes of gas a year.

In his e-mail, John Donovan refers to an exchange of internal e-mails that was leaked to him. In the document, one of the employees warns his colleagues in London that a disaster on one of the drilling rigs could be devastating. “He wrote that the oil spill off the coast of Alaska from the sunken 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker would be trivial compared to what could threaten in Sakhalin,” Donovan says.

Less than two years after the e-mail to Vladimir Putin a Russian court stripped Shell of its majority leadership and downgraded the company to a minority partner with a stake of 27 percent. When Shell suspected espionage, the then Russian Deputy Environment Minister Oleg Mitvol explained his source in a newspaper interview: “The information we needed came from John Donovan, from Colchester in England.” And every couple of months, Donovan came up with a new scoop.

Translated from German by Anton Baer

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