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Shell Brent Bravo Deaths: Criminal Investigation uncovers lies, deceit and potential corruption

Introduction by John Donovan

I have published below a self-explanatory statement by Bill Campbell (right), the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International. I will email this statement and a more detailed version to Michiel Brandjes, the Company Secretary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and forward the same information to the senior Shell executives and the non Executive Chairman, Jorma Ollila, named in the statement.

The more detailed version will be published on this website after Shell has had an opportunity to comment and/or take legal action. Shell issued threats of legal action against us yesterday and may wish to add this matter if briefing Counsel.


Some time ago the police in Aberdeen passed a report to the Procurator Fiscal (public prosecutor).  A criminal investigation commenced based on these allegations. The Procurator Fiscal are part of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), reference to the Crown is simply because the UK has a monarchy.

The investigation has focused to date on the role of HSE officials. These officials are UK Government employees.  Since the investigation is ongoing it is inappropriate to comment on what has, or has not been established with regards to HSE.  The CPS investigation to date however has confirmed that Shell repeatedly made false and misleading statements about its part in these affairs.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry into deaths on Brent Bravo

What has been established is that the HSE, whether in collusion with Shell or not, failed to pass vital evidence to the CPS in 2003 prior to the Fatal Accident Inquiry.  HSE had obtained this evidence directly from Shell only days after the fatalities.  This evidence given to HSE was from Greg Hill, the Production Director in Aberdeen, and was from his internal Technical Integrity Review implemented immediately after the deaths. Hill implemented the Review to ascertain whether Brent Bravo was an unfortunate, but isolated incident, or was there a general malaise offshore.  The Review found chronic weakness in management controls resulting in the deaths on Brent Bravo, for which Shell were prosecuted.  The Review confirmed that Brent Bravo was not an isolated incident as similar conditions were found on many of the Shell North Sea installations.

What were the consequences flowing from this?

My most recent meeting with CPS was on the 18th February 2011.  The CPS position is that if they had been in possession of the evidence given by Greg Hill to HSE in 2003, as they should have been, this would most likely have led to a more general Inquiry into how Shell had operated across the oilfield and over the prolonged period from 1999.  There was considerable public interest in the Brent Bravo fatalities, and this combined with the evidence of a negative safety culture, may have influenced the Lord Advocate (in US parlance an Attorney General) who heads up the CPS in Scotland, to order such Inquiry.  This Inquiry would have covered how technical and operations integrity of Shell facilities, not just Brent Bravo, had degraded over a prolonged period, and how this degradation had not been halted or reversed, despite many HSE enforcement actions being applied on Shell over this period.

2006 – After the Fatal Accident Inquiry into Brent Bravo

When the Sheriff (a Judge) reported the results of his Inquiry there was significant public concern from Trade Unions and politicians, The Sheriff had determined how the deaths had taken place by after a 38 day Inquiry had made no recommendations.  He did however make the significant suggestion that factors he had not covered, because of the restrictions of the relevant Act concerning such Inquiries, could merit a more General Inquiry, but to date no such Inquiry has taken place.

BBC Scotland encapsulated the public concerns on a programme aired on 14th June 2006.  Prior to the programme going on air BBC offered both Shell and HSE right of reply but they declined to comment despite the programme content being critical of both parties.  On the 16th June 2006 significant media interest was stirred up by the oil industry Magazine Upstream articles.  Shell issued a rebuttal in the form of press releases by their Crisis Management Team which were also copied internally to its employees across the World.

How did Shell respond to the critical media coverage?

Their Press Releases on 16 June 2006 stated that

Safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times and we absolutely reject any suggestion that we would compromise safety offshore. In 1999, Shell initiated the Platform Safety Management Review (PSMR),  and responded vigorously to its findings. A follow up implementation audit conducted at the end of 2000 confirmed significant progress had been made on both asset integrity and management systems. This contributed to the continuous improvement in Shell’s safety performance that has been achieved since 1999 in the North Sea.

With the Press Releases the cover-up commenced

It was Greg Hill who led the Crisis Management Team and it was he who way back in 2003 had presented the evidence of the appalling conditions on many of his offshore installations to HSE.  The press release also ignored the findings of their own internal investigation completed in 2005, into the conduct of Directors in 1999.  This investigation concluded that the 1999 PSMR follow-up was ineffective.  The investigation was critical of Malcolm Brinded for dispensing with the services of the SIEP Lead Auditor of the PSMR in 1999 which effectively halted the PSMR in midstream.   Brinded was also criticised for not taking the immediate actions, as recommended by his Platform Safety Management Review (PSMR) in 1999, to reduce the risks on Brent Bravo, which was operating in a dangerous condition.

Why did Greg Hill lie?

Greg Hill was put in charge of the Crisis Management Team in June 2006 with instructions from above to sort this problem out or else!  As evidence of a hostile environment of extreme denial Hill was given no choice being intimidated to lie, and lie again, do anything that was needed to protect Shell from public ridicule and potential prosecution. Jacob Stausholm, the SIEP Chief Auditor who had led the 2005 internal investigation into the behaviour of Brinded and Finlayson at the time of the PSMR, was also threatened. He was to bury his report and raise no objections to the press releases.  Within a few years both Hill and Stausholm had left Shell.   Hill went to the Hess Corporation as President of their EP division and Stausholm joined Statoil Hydro as a non-executive Director.  Both these organisations raised no legal or other objections to the comments made about their employees.

Why did the HSE not respond to the Shell Press Releases?

One of the examples of collusion between Shell and HSE was that HSE were aware that the Press Releases by Shell were false.
From the feedback from the CPS investigation they confirmed that the CEO of the HSE was aware that the statements made by Shell in the Press Releases in 2006 were totally false and misleading. His defence apparently was that the Shell statement put HSE in a difficult position as their Policy does not allow them to comment of the performance of individual organisations.  A pretty lame excuse.  So the CPS accept that the public statements made by Shell did not reflect the reality of the situation and that HSE allowed these comments to go unchallenged, all this still subject to investigation.

So what lies have been uncovered?

Lie 1

It is not contentious that Shell neglected to inform HSE about the 1999 PSMR and its findings.  In 2006, Shell defended this by stating that the PSMR was just a Review and not an audit.  The facts established and accepted by the CPS is that the PSMR was conducted by Auditors, was based on seven offshore audits, the PSMR report was issued by the Internal Audit Manager and was ipso facto an audit.  Not to inform HSE and the offshore workers about the results of a health and safety Audit is an offence under Safety Case Regulations. The PSMR produced many recommended actions, these were accepted by Shell Expro, but not effectively implemented.  This contributing to the deaths on Brent Bravo and to the chronic weaknesses in essential controls across the oilfield as witnessed in 2003.  As previously stated if the full facts had been known by the CPS at the time it is likely that a more general Inquiry would have been held.

Lie 2

It is not contentious that rather than a continuos improvement from 1999 till the deaths there had been continuos degradation of standards due to the imposed negative safety culture and the failure to implement the PSMR findings.  In the words of the Lord Advocate, it was clear from the conditions on Brent Bravo that the deaths had resulted from ineffective management of Shell’s offshore operations over a prolonged period of time.

Lie 3

In 2006, under intense media pressure van der Veer responded to critical media comments, and separately in correspondence with me (held by the CPS), that there was no evidence that the performance results of ESD valves had been falsified in 1999.  Another blatant lie now uncovered.

Lie 4

Asked to investigate the role of van der Veer and Brinded by me, the RDS Chairman Jorma Ollila in writing replied that he was satisfied with the statements made in the Shell 2006 Press Releases and the Shell position was supported by their internal investigation.  He now accepts that his statements were not factual. Although he has been bestowed with nine badges of honour by various agencies this did not stop dispensing with the truth to protect the Shell reputation.






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