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Criminal case against Shell for Moerdijk explosion

The Dutch Public Prosecution believes Shell should be prosecuted because the company could have prevented the accident. ‘If Shell had taken all the measures, such an explosion could not have happened. By acting in this way, they have put workers and people in the environment at risk, ‘reports a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service. The criminal case against Shell is scheduled at the court session in Den Bosch on 14 and 16 May 2019.

Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch Financial Times, Financieele Dagblad.

Shell also in court because of an explosion at Moerdijk

By Bert van Dijk and Vasco van der Boon

Shell is not only under fire from the authorities because of possible bribery in Nigeria, but also because of an explosion in June 2014 at Shell Moerdijk. The Public Prosecutor has summoned Shell Dutch Chemical for this explosion. This is reported by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) in response to questions from the FD.

Except for the explosion, Shell will also be brought to justice for the temporary excessive emissions of the toxic substance ethylene oxide in 2015 and 2016.

Nigeria

Earlier Friday it was announced that the OM is preparing a criminal case against Shell for corruption in Nigeria. That criminal investigation into Shell has not yet been completed, but according to the current investigation, according to the Public Prosecution Service, there are already prosecutable offences. ‘We will continue’, according to the spokesman on the Nigeria issue. “Only the way in which is not yet clear.” The investigation could result in a settlement or a criminal case.

Moerdijk

The Public Prosecutor suspects Shell in the case of the explosion in Moerdijk of deliberately put on or in the soil, in the air or in the surface water a substance that has endangered public health. The explosion dates from before a law amendment that makes it possible to impose a maximum of 10% of the turnover as a fine, the Public Prosecutor says in an explanation.

Shell says in a reaction: “Shell sincerely regrets for neighbours, customers and other stakeholders what has happened. We understand that the Public Prosecution Service has proceeded to a summons. Shell Moerdijk has taken measures to prevent repetition.

Research Council for Safety

In June 2014 an explosion occurred at a Shell Moerdijk factory, after which a large fire broke out. In addition, two employees suffered burns. There was a lot of inconvenience for local residents and there were millions of euros of damage. The accident happened during the restart of the factory. Due to an unexpected chemical reaction during that warm-up, the temperature and pressure increased strongly in a short time. This caused an explosion in the reactor.

The Dutch Safety Board investigating the explosion was hard in its opinion. The board was surprised that Shell Moerdijk did not follow the internal procedures properly, insufficient lessons were learned from previous incidents and signals within the organization and incorrect assumptions were made about basic chemical reactions.

‘Extremely painful’

According to the Board, Shell did not live up to the high expectations of safety management within the company, according to the research report from 2015. Shell itself also conducted internal research and concluded that the company should have avoided the explosion at the chemical complex. ‘These conclusions are extremely painful’, said then general manager Paul Buijsingh of Shell Moerdijk at the time.

The Dutch Public Prosecution believes Shell should be prosecuted because the company could have prevented the accident. ‘If Shell had taken all the measures, such an explosion could not have happened. By acting in this way, they have put workers and people in the environment at risk, ‘reports a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service.

Not the first time

The summons concerns Shell as a company. ‘Research shows that we can not prove that the management knew about it and that it actively led the behaviour or left it to be conscious,’ according to the Public Prosecution Service. The presumed criminal offences in this case, therefore, charges the Public Prosecution Service to the organization as a whole.

The fact that the Public Prosecution Service is proceeding with criminal prosecution is partly due to the fact that it is not the first time that Shell has been negligent in the field of safety and the environment. ‘Recidivism is one of the factors that play a role in the follow-up decision’, the Public Prosecutor states.

In addition, there is another incident at the session, namely the emission of ethylene oxide above the standard. In addition, there is still a criminal investigation in response to incidents at Shell in Pernis.

The criminal case against Shell is scheduled at the court session in Den Bosch on 14 and 16 May 2019.

SOURCE

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