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The Guardian: Shell Brent Bravo deaths ‘preventable’

Terry Macalister
Tuesday July 18, 2006

Shell might have prevented the death of two oil workers in 2003 if it had properly repaired a hole in a corroding pipeline on the Brent Bravo platform, a fatal accident inquiry in Aberdeen concluded today.

Colin John Harris, the sheriff, said there were also “defects in the system of working” that had contributed to the accident in which Sean McCue, 22, and Keith Moncrieff, 45, lost their lives.

“The accident … might reasonably have been prevented if an appropriate temporary repair had been applied to the hole on the closed-drain degasser rundown line, such as a fully engineered repair and not a repair using a neoprene patch and jubilee clips,” the sheriff concluded.

It would have been relatively easy for Shell to have fitted a replacement spool “within a reasonable time on a section of a safety critical line which was known to be corroding”, he said.

The accident has already led to a fine for Shell, which has been under fire from unions and one of its own safety consultants. The firm also failed in this case to set the limits on the work to be done inside the utility shaft of Brent Bravo. The men died from inhaling hydrocarbon vapour while 170m down inside the platform leg inspecting the temporary repair.

The Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, a trade union for oil workers, said it was disappointed that the sheriff had not taken a wider view of the case given the evidence available concerning Shell’s poor maintenance regime.

Shell said it accepted all the sheriff’s criticisms: “We deeply regret the tragic deaths of Sean McCue and Keith Moncrieff on Brent Bravo in 2003. Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of our two colleagues. We fully accept the sheriff’s findings. Safety is, and will remain, our first priority.

“In the three years since this tragic incident we have worked hard to understand the root causes of why it happened and have put measures in place to prevent anything like this happening again.”

The company said that after the accident it had begun a thorough review of all its North Sea offshore installations and made significant improvements in systems, procedures and offshore training programmes. “These improvements, some of which were reflected in the sheriff’s determination, have resulted in a safer offshore working environment on Shell’s installations. As part of our commitment to ensuring a safe future for the North Sea, we also launched a $1bn physical upgrade programme, together with learning programmes.”

The offshore union said the accident emphasised the need for a new Scottish offence of corporate killing. “Only this will put real pressure on management to bring about a much better safety regime in the North Sea,” said its leader, Jake Molloy. RELATED REPORTS & DOCUMENTS

The following link is for the Shell Brent Scandal Fatal Accident Report published on 18 July 2006.

EXTRACT: “During the course of the inquiry it became apparent that evidence relating to the condition of certain valves on the platform might be relevant to the cause of the deaths of the two men, or have contributed to the incident which resulted in their deaths. However certain evidence, such as the possible consequences to the structure of the platform, and its crew, of the ignition of the vapour within the utility shaft, while of concern to some of the parties and no doubt of importance to the offshore oil industry and those who work in it, was, in my opinion, beyond the scope of the 1976 Act and more appropriate for consideration at an inquiry of a more general nature.”


The following documents relating to the above Fatal Accident Report are of a technical nature. They are published for analysis by Shell insiders, experts in relevant matters and the news media: They come under the heading of “evidence that the Sheriff may not have heard”.

FIRST DOCUMENT: A comparison between PSMR findings in 1999, and post incident 2003: (Attitudes, values and behaviours – the cause of the systemic failure)

SECOND DOCUMENT: PSMR AUDIT TECHNICAL NOTE (Suggest change “View” to web layout for ease of reading)

MORE RELATED ARTICLES/DOCUMENTS and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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