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Mr Campbell insisted it is only a matter of time before there is another major tragedy in the North Sea. He said: “According to public domain data there were 85 gas releases and 443 dangerous occurrences last year. If you are getting 85 gas leaks that’s one and a half, or two, leaks a week. The probability of an undesirable event is very high.”


By John Donovan

The Sunday Express has today published an article under the headline: “Rusting rigs spark fears of oil tragedy” (above newspaper article) and “SCOTTISH OIL RIGS IN DIRE STRAITS” (online version).

The newspaper approached us for assistance and we were happy to supply extensive information, including the revealing letter we obtained from the Health & Safety Executive that is mentioned in the article.

We also put the Sunday Express journalist Paula Murray into contact with Bill Campbell, the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International to led the safety audit team on Shell North Sea platforms in 1999 which exposed a “Touch F*** All” maintenance culture with bodged repairs and falsified safety records. A more recent report (in 2008) by upstreamonline revealed that even the oil rig lifeboats were not seaworthy.

Shell management actions on North Sea employee safety appear to be completely different to its approach on the Pearl Gas-to-liquids project in Qatar, which apparently has an exemplary safety record. Is it because North Sea operations are viewed as rapidly becoming past history, whereas Pearl is seen as the money-spinning future?

If so, it is unfortunate and dangerous  for employees and contractors working offshore for Shell in the North Sea.

If, God forbid, there is a major disaster on a Shell North Sea facility, relevant Shell senior managers will find themselves in an unenviable position after ignoring so many alarm bells rang so loudly and incessantly by Bill Campbell since 1999.

Sunday September 11,2011

By Paula Murray

SHOCKING footage has emerged showing the shocking state of Scotland’s rusting oil rigs amid fears some could be close to collapse.

The video taken last month shows an offshore worker hammering a hole through the floor of one of the platforms, sending chunks of the metal frame tumbling into the North Sea hundreds of feet below.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Express has also obtained a damning letter from the Health and Safety Executive following a summer inspection that found a 15,000-hour backlog in essential maintenance on one rig alone.

In it officials warn of the danger of some of the structure falling down “as the integrity worsens”.

Some rigs are being forced to use scaffolding to support failing hand railings and boards on the worst affected walkways to prevent workers falling through rusting metalwork.

Experts say that about half of the oil and gas platforms operating off the east coast of Scotland have already exceeded their “best before” dates, some by as much as 20 years, leading to fears of a major catastrophe.

Now the emergence of the footage from the undisclosed rig has sparked fresh demands for the safety of operations in the North Sea to be urgently reviewed.

Bill Campbell, former Group Auditor for Shell International and now a safety campaigner, said: “The useful life of any mechanical man-made structure can only be reached if maintained and inspected throughout its life.

“But the dominant failure characteristic for offshore installations is age-related. This footage testing the gratings was taken some weeks ago and shows what we already know.”

Mr Campbell added that he believed many rig workers are “blissfully unaware of the risks they are taking”.

More than 23 years have passed since 168 men died following an explosion on the Piper Alpha platform that also left 61 workers injured.

In the last 12 months there have been hundreds of dangerous incidents offshore with improvement notices handed out to various companies.

Last month Royal Dutch Shell battled an oil leak some 120 miles from Aberdeen in the biggest incident in a decade that saw more than 200 tonnes of oil spill into the sea.

The Sunday Express has obtained a report from the Health and Safety Executive of an inspection on Shell’s Brent C platform in July, which reveals “areas of the installation are suffering from severe corrosion”. Officials also point out that “redundant equipment did not appear to be inspected or  maintained and there is a risk that some aspects may pose a dropped object threat as integrity worsens”.

In a letter to Shell, Fraser Easton, HM Principal Inspector of Health and Safety, said he found a “significant maintenance backlog” exceeding 15,000 hours and?demanded assurances that lives were not at risk.

Mr Campbell insisted it is only a matter of time before there is another major tragedy in the North Sea. He said: “According to public domain data there were 85 gas releases and 443 dangerous occurrences last year. If you are getting 85 gas leaks that’s one and a half, or two, leaks a week. The probability of an undesirable event is very high.”

But industry representative Oil & Gas UK, which organised a safety summit earlier this month, insisted the HSE’s most recent statistics show the number of major and significant gas leaks is already going down.

Robert Paterson, health and safety director, said: “The offshore industry invests significant funds, time and energy to ensure that its installations remain in a safe condition. All safety-critical systems on every North Sea platform are subject to regular and rigorous inspections.”


PDF Version of article


Leaked Shell Sigma3 document may hold clue to cause of Gannet oil spill:

Former Shell chairman James Smith to lead deregulation of UK oil and gas industry: Telegraph

UK Offshore Regulator Mulls Naming North Sea Spill Offenders: Dow Jones Newswires

Warning North Sea oil platforms could be near collapse: STV

Shell defends reporting of North Sea oil spill: The Guardian

Shell’s North Sea Reputation sunk by severe corrosion: Sunday Times/

Investigation into leak at Shell’s North Sea platform to get under way news:

No wonder bits are falling off the Shell Brent Platforms

Oil spill investigation begins as Shell plugs North Sea leak: The Guardian

Oil production in North Sea scrutinized: UPI

Halt Shell projects in North Sea, says WWF: The Press & Journal

Investigation gets under way as Shell plugs North Sea oil leak: Telegraph

Revealed: Shell’s poor safety record in the UK: Herald Scotland

Shell could face fines over Gannet oil spill: Telegraph

Shell’s Touch Fuck All culture on North Sea Platforms

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