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Scorching comments from a Shell EP insider about Shell EP Executive Director, Malcolm Brinded

(The name and address of the author of the comments below, who has many years of experience as a Shell EP senior manager, has been supplied to us on a confidential basis; the content is unedited)

Email addressed to John Donovan

SPTEMBER 2007 SPEECH MADE BY MALCOLM BRINDED

Who needs international oil companies?: Speech by Malcolm Brinded (also comments on safety issues)

I read this speech from your web site when it was published and spent a couple of days considering how to respond to such a speech from such an arrogant and self confident man.  It is obvious that his actions both present and past considers himself supreme and beyond any accountability.  The whole aurora of the speech is amazing! Over the years of his tenure thousands of Shell jobs have gone to either Consultants or Contractors replacing Shell staff.  Anything Shell does is implemented by these Consultants from development feasibility studies right through to front end Engineering/Construction and Operation.  Shell provides finance and sits in the background totally hands off hence the ever increasing failures to implement developments with the estimated budgets. The most recent example are in Russia with the LNG plant which will most likely followed by the Pearl GTL and Harwell EOR with overruns probably approaching 100%.  Shell appears to have lost control but why?

Development projects have a history of over-running budget with notable historical overspends in the first North Sea developments but with the 2nd & 3rd generation of developments budget over-runs were within the “norm” figures and were contained at around 10%.  How was this done?  Shell at that time had a large number of high quality dedicated professional Engineering Staff who set about the analysis of the reasons were it went wrong and implemented their findings.  The net result was a huge increase in value for money and increased profitability on the investments.  Exactly what should be done to enable of ever increasing marginal developments being exploited to satisfy the World’s ever increasing demand for Oil/Gas and its refined products.

At the same period the Operating costs were always under pressure, as is expected. The incumbent Operating Staff at that time were also World class calibre who knew how to analysis the situation for the reduction in costs but importantly ensure that Operating envelopes were not compromised.  After around three rounds of this loop it was considered not possible to reduce any further. Operational Safety Cases had been written and approved by the HSE and Shell proudly announced that they were self regulating.  By this time Mr M Brinded arrived on the scene and he wanted ever more cost reductions. 

Hundreds of Shell Staff jobs were no longer core business and either made redundant or had to apply to Contractors for employment or seek work elsewhere often outside the Oil industry and the expertise was lost.  Anyone who did not tow the party line was invited either to follow instructions or resign.  Operations started to be compromised, production became the holy grail and ruled supreme and was ruthlessly driven, targets were stretched above and beyond the horizon of ever being achieved.  Something had to give and that something was undermined staff moral, caused by ruthless implementation of instructions to meet targets almost at any cost regardless. 

I will now turn to the findings of Bill Campbell’s initial audit and its findings and his attempts to encourage an orderly return to compliance with self regulation within the approved Safety Cases.  He failed and was virtually sacked for his efforts.  A couple of years later we had the fatalities on Brent B where two lives were lost.  Follow up internal audits revealed a truly horrendous situation with vast areas of plant and equipment running totally outside safe operating envelopes.  The HSE apparently were aware of the situation but seemingly either unable or unwilling to intervene.  The subsequent shut downs on the Brent Field cost more than £100million in lost production which was in addition to the cost of minimum repairs to start up and of course we cannot forget the trumpeted £1 billion increased budget to restore integrity. Shell were eventually prosecuted, pleaded guilty and fined almost £1 million. We don’t hear much about the out of court settlements being made to  keep the lid on all the events which may have been created by Shell being negligent by paying scant regard for integrity and compliance within the Safety Case or the business principles.  During this period there were potentials for complete loss of facilities and many lives which would be unacceptable anywhere else but out of sight and mind below the horizon in the North Sea. The subsequent public enquiry was inhibited with evidence suppressed or rendered inadmissible and the true state of affairs buried behind in a legal sanctuary.

Since then Shell have been approached by Bill Campbell and yourself.  Many journalists have written articles outlining the situation within the Shell culture with respect to compliance with the business principles and internal failures.  So who is the person behind this in the beginning and who is there now and where is he?  That man is Malcolm Brinded, who has terrorised his staff and managers alike for more than 20 years. This the man who has been described as a world class leader of business, a supreme industrialist creating wealth for his company and employment thousands of people. 

His statement, in his recent speech in Aberdeen regarding safety and the chain of command is copied below. Is this from the man who refuses to accept any accountability for his actions?  Unfortunately yes it is but then with his supreme Teflon coated shoulders the case can be made that he was not in the implementation decision making forums! After all Shell Managers were required to operate within the business principles and were accountable.  Nowhere does he state that the instructions were given under duress of course this is not recorded so it is hearsay.

Mr Malcolm Brinded it is time you reflected on the last twenty years of your Shell employment and compared what has happened to the part of Shell you now control.  How did you get there?  How many people’s lives did you make an abject misery for so many years?  How many people died needlessly in the Operations you are accountable and responsible for?  I forgot, in your current position you consider yourself supreme have no intent to comply with the stated business principles and are not accountable to anyone are beyond the reach of anyone or anything, but the CEO and the Group Chairman, they are aware of your ruthless approach but do nothing to curb your excesses.

One day your past will catch up with you when you have time to reflect, but of course you have more brass in your neck that the QE2’s propeller even if that is Phosphor Bronze.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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