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Taped telephone call confirms Shell Brent Bravo explosion cover-up

Bill Campbell believes that the innocent victims of Shell senior managements willingness to put production, profits, personal greed and ambition before the safety of Shell offshore employees, are being blamed for their own tragic avoidable deaths. Journalists who feel duped by information given to them by Shell, including by its then CEO Jeroen van der Veer, may wish to ask Bill Campbell for a transcript of his taped telephone conversation with Royal Dutch Shell Chief Internal Auditor Jakob Stausholm. It blows the lid off the Brent Bravo Scandal and the related cover-up.

By John Donovan

Brinded didn’t jump, he was pushed

Printed below is an email sent to Grampian Police on 10 Sept 2012 by Bill Campbell, the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International. The email was copied to Jorma Ollila, Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Keith Ruddock, General Counsel Shell EP and Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive of the UK Health & Safety Executive.

The email relates to the Shell Brent Bravo Scandal. In 2005, Shell was fined a record £900,000 at Stonehaven Sheriff Court, for a series of safety failings on the Brent Bravo platform, which led to a gas leak inside the giant platform’s utility leg and the tragic avoidable deaths of two workers, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue.

Mr Campbell, revealed that Shell had operated a “Touch F*** All” safety culture on the platform and that safety records had been falsified. He reported this to Malcolm Brinded, the then Managing Director of Shell Expro, who failed to take proper action. This was before the explosion.

Bill Campbell later courageously provided evidence, which resulted in Grampian Police conducting a long investigation into related alleged bribery and corruption of HSE officials by Shell. The police passed the case file to the Procurator Fiscal Service for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Mr Campbell was surprised when the Procurator Fiscal Service announced that it had dropped the case because there was insufficient evidence to justify a criminal prosecution. He was even more surprised to discover that NO witnesses were ever interviewed from the list he had provided to the Police. Neither witnesses from Shell or HSE.  Or indeed, the independent witnesses who could have provided corroboration.

Mr Campbell maintains that there is an abundance of evidence provided by Shell employees and by HSE (as a result of their internal investigation) and through information released under the Freedom of Information Act.

In his latest email on the subject, Mr Campbell discusses his recent revelation that audio evidence exists of an important telephone conversation between him and a senior official of Royal Dutch Shell.

Bill Campbell believes that the innocent victims of Shell senior managements willingness to put production, profits, personal greed and ambition before the safety of Shell offshore employees, are being blamed for their own tragic avoidable deaths. Journalists who feel duped by information given to them by Shell, including by its then CEO Jeroen van der Veer, may wish to ask Bill Campbell for a transcript of his taped telephone conversation with Shell Chief Internal Auditor Jakob Stausholm. It blows the lid off the Brent Bravo Scandal and the related cover-up. Bill’s email address is available on request.

Mr van der Veer may have been a bit distracted at the time by his indirect involvement in the Shell reserves fraud. He knew about that scandal long before Shell shareholders, but kept silent. He signed Form 20F declarations filed with the US Securities & Exchange Commission containing materially false information. So perhaps we should not be too shocked at his participation in another cover-up.

We will expect legal proceedings to be issued by Shell and/or the departed Malcolm Brinded (or the HSE) if they take issue with the facts, as stated by Mr Campbell herein. See his email and his related document “BLAMING THE DEAD.” If no legal action is taken, the public will be entitled to draw their own conclusions for the failure to do so.

When Shell first became aware that I was in contact with Mr Campbell, Shell EP General Counsel Keith Ruddock sent an email to the solicitors acting for him and applied pressure in a desperate attempt to sever the contact and prevent information about the Brent Bravo Scandal being published here.


I attach a further email received from Mr Donovan.  As it appears that this material has been provided to him by Mr Campbell, I would ask you to consider urgently with your client whether publication of this material on the Donovan website in this manner is really in the best interests of furthering Mr Campbell’s case with Shell and of helping continue the constructive dialogue which we have been undertaking in good faith with him.

Days later Shell set up a crisis reaction/countermeasure team with a “Strategy to detach Campbell from the Donovans.” This was quickly expanded into a global operation designed to stop Shell “internal laundry” from being aired on our website. The spying has not been entirely successful bearing in mind that insider information subsequently leaked to me has cost Shell many billions of dollars (as has been widely reported in the press and on TV). And we continue to publish the facts about the Brent Bravo Scandal and the related notorious TOUCH F*** ALL safety culture.


From: Bill Campbell
Subject: Brinded didn’t jump, he was pushed
Date: 10 September 2012 21:29:30 GMT+01:00
 To: [email protected], [email protected]
  Cc: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

I made you aware recently that audio evidence existed.  This is of a conversation between me and the Shell Chief Internal Auditor Jakob Stausholm.  It is not contentious that the call was made; defamation proceedings commenced Campbell vs. Shell.  For reasons I explained and other issues I withdrew from this process but by that stage had got Malcolm Brinded to apologise to the auditors he savaged in 1999, and Keith Ruddock wrote a draft note accepting shortcomings`

The tape recording mention was offered at the time to Stausholm and the CEO Van der Veer.

Back to the phone call.  I was at home; I think he was in Perth WA.  He was very contrite, apologetic, that the Shell press release (attached) had ignored the findings of his investigation completed July 2005.  Greg Hill who made the release was forced into this and Stausholm confirmed that he and his buddy Richard Sykes had been humiliated, told to bury their report.  As to the fact that the press release stated I had made malicious, unjustified allegations against colleagues, Stausholm, retorted what did you expect.

So there was a critical piece of evidence, the Stausholm report, and a phone call that corroborating all that was said in the report.  Also I approached Stausholm, Sykes and Hill who could have confirmed all this but they were never approached by Anne Currie.

What’s in the Report

The report that Shell had failed to follow up the actions from the 1999 audit used the data in the attachments plus other evidence on behaviour, namely chronic violation of procedures including permit system, so it’s not surprising that they found no evidence that the actions from 1999 were ever implemented.  Despite this on 28 April 2008 the Company Secretary writes to me on behalf of the complete Board.  The letter rejects the physical data from their own investigation.  It stands by the press release of of June 2006 that the 1999 audit had been vigorously responded to etc, you can read for yourself.  The report also found that the Asset Manager David Bayliss, who was the architect of the Touch F All policy, had been retained in that position by Brinded ,despite my recommendation in 1999 that he and others be suspended pending inquiry into their conduct.  Stausholm/Sykes describe this decision as inexplicable.  Brinded had told them he only kept Bayliss in the job because if he had replaced him it would have affected his mental stability, As Stausholm says in the phone call, Bayliss was sick, very sick, in other words of diminished responsibility.

What does the phone conversation confirm

All the above and more

It appears that Keith Ruddock, in his energetic defence of Brinded may have misled the Board on his assumption that the audio evidence did not exist because I ceased the defamation process.  It’s on record that I advised him that his energetic defence of Brinded was not in the long term interest of Shell and that he was sinking Royal Dutch Shell deeper and deeper in the mire.  You are also aware that Anne Currie also showed no interest in the report or audio evidence perhaps falling under the same spin as the Board.  In any case, directly related, Shell announced that Brinded was stepping down in February this year, a statement covering a multitude of sins.

Given the situation I asked the Chairman if he could issue a short press release, an apology for the misleading press release of June 2006, he I think is inclined personally to do this but that would spell disaster, but perhaps a controlled disaster.

So the evidence against Brinded covered by documentation and corroborating witnesses

  • Under pressure that the TFA concerns in 1999 would blight his career he asked his good friend Helen Liddell to intervene with HSE, the OSD officials Powell, and Bainbridge

(Shell witnesses Moyes, Merry, Campbell and Madden plus documented evidence)

  • HSE accept TFA investigation as incompetently handled

OSD witness Brian Bainbridge

  • Lead Auditors request to suspend Bayliss et al on Oct 1999 ignored

(Shell witnesses Stausholm and Sykes)

  • In July 2005 internal investigation confirms that Brinded’s handling of Audit findings and Audit team in 1999 unacceptable.  Removal of Lead auditor brought audit to premature end, this they say contributed directly to the actions not being undertaken this being linked to the deaths

(Shell witnesses Stausholm, Sykes, Campbell

I think as a minimum you should formally ask the Chairman if he accepts this.

John Donovan and I, are anxious to start the ball rolling with an article headed Brinded didn’t jump, he was pushed, if no reply in 48 hrs or so we will accept no challenge to allegations made and publication of Blaming the Dead etc had no legal or other objections from Shell.

Bill Campbell



Blaming the Dead

This story tells how the UK offshore oil and gas extraction industry health and safety Regulator assisted Shell to avoid corporate manslaughter charges.  In collusion with Shell they presented evidence at a public Inquiry that two men killed offshore were mainly responsible for their own deaths.  The men had entered an enclosed space to work on a temporary pipe clamp without a permit.  As part of the cover-up the Regulator purposefully put the lives of hundreds of offshore workers at risk by taking no enforcement actions to safeguard workers on other installations. These installations had the same, and in many cases, worse conditions, than those, which caused the deaths on Brent Bravo.  When in 2006 the BBC, newspapers etc made the public aware of the dangerous conditions present on these installations the Regulator allowed Shell to say that it had vigorously pursued shortcomings in its operational safety raised as early as 1999, and that the conditions offshore and the levels of risk had significantly improved prior to the fatalities, when in fact the Regulator was fully aware that these statements were false and misleading.  The Regulator kept quiet because it was in their vested self-interest so to do to protect what was at the time an already tarnished reputation. In later years, when MPs’ raised concerns about the conduct of the Regulator, the MPs’ were given false and misleading information in the continuing attempts by the Regulator to mask from public scrutiny their involvement with Shell.

Background – withholding evidence from a public prosecutor

An investigation was carried out by the Grampian Area Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen, completed in March 2011, as to why evidence relevant to the Public Inquiry into a double fatality on the offshore installation Brent Bravo in 2003 was withheld from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by officials of the Offshore Safety Division (OSD) a branch of the UK health and safety at work Regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  OSD has its head office in Aberdeen.

The investigation by the Procurator Fiscal found insufficient evidence that OSD officials had been bribed by Shell in 2003 to act in this way, rather it seems OSD had its own vested interests for not disclosing evidence to the public Inquiry to protect its own tarnished reputation.

The CPS position is that if this evidence had been available it may have warranted a more general Inquiry into offshore safety per se and the effectiveness of regulation of the offshore oil and gas extraction industry by OSD under the post Piper Alpha Safety Case regime.

The Sheriff at the Inquiry raised specific concerns about the neglect of maintenance of Emergency Shutdown Valves (ESDV), and the potential consequences to the structure of the installation if the massive amounts of gas released (circa 6280 cubic metres of rich hydrocarbons) into an enclosed space had ignited.  Prior to the accident the installation had operated despite the fact that some 15 ESDV were known to be in a failed state.  The topsides of the installation with a gross operational weight of 50,000 tonnes may have suffered partial or complete collapse onto the storage cells below which could contain up to one million barrels of oil.  At the time of the Brent Bravo fatalities there were 156 persons on board.  Taking this into account the Sheriff’s opinion was that it was for others to determine whether, on this specific point alone, a more general Inquiry was merited.  No such Inquiry was ever sanctioned by the relevant Scottish authorities.

Apart from purposefully and maliciously withholding evidence from a public Inquiry OSD officials ignored their duty of care to hundreds of workers when in collusion with Shell it allowed production to continue in the oilfield, after the Brent Bravo fatalities, with many offshore installations operating with dangerously high levels of risk.  OSD made no attempt to reduce risk through enforcement actions or to forewarn offshore workers of the risks they were being subjected to.  This is not a case of double jeopardy.  Shell pled guilty in all respects for the deaths on Brent Bravo.  This story, as yet fully untold or appreciated by the Public, is that many other offshore installations had the same problems as Brent Bravo, and a number were in a far worse condition including Gannet which was very much in the news last year due to a large oil leak.  The four large Brent installations were shutdown last year for many months to sort out technical integrity problems, and Brent Charlie remained shutdown due to what the OSD confirmed as catastrophic risks.  So the major accident on Brent Bravo had the potential to be repeated on many other installations.

What were the consequences of this with regards to offshore workers?

On these 16 or so other installations violation of procedures was common, maintenance records were falsified, criminal neglect of maintenance was evident and many changes to plant and equipment had been undertaken without proper approval.  Although these are the factors, which caused the deaths on Brent Bravo, for which Shell pled guilty and were prosecuted, no enforcement actions were taken by OSD to prosecute Shell for the conditions known to exist on the other installations.  Analysis on a quantitative basis puts the risk levels on some of these installations 100 times higher than the international minimum acceptable level and 1000 times or more above the levels stated in the various Safety Cases.  These levels are reached without taking into account a qualitative assessment of the risks due to violation of the permit to work system which by 2003 was stated by Shell after the fatalities in their internal review to have become custom and practice.

How did Shell and OSD hide all this from the public prosecutor?

The strategy adopted by Shell supported by OSD, was to convince the CPS, namely the then Procurator Fiscal Depute Ernest Barbour, that the deceased were mainly responsible for their own deaths.  OSD officials informed Barbour, supported by Shell, that the Brent Bravo accident was an open and shut case, no Public Inquiry

would be necessary, Shell would plead guilty to all charges, and that would be the end of the matter.  This untold story explains how both parties were motivated to act in the way they did, and what the consequences were of their actions, and how they vigorously covered this up.

What motivated Shell to act in this way?

The story begins in 1999 when an extensive audit carried out by Shell Expro internal auditors found chronic weaknesses in essential controls offshore.  Violation of procedures were common, equipment was being operated in a dangerous condition, an autonomous uncontrolled Asset Manager for the Brent field was carrying out design changes to equipment without approval, and safety critical equipment maintenance records were falsified with the knowledge and consent of the Asset Manager.  His concern was that at all costs production was to be maintained, he was under great pressure to do so, or so a later Shell internal investigation reported, his actions mitigated by the fact that at the time, according to the investigation findings, he was ill, very ill and this illness effected his judgement.  Three Shell auditors interviewed the Asset Manager in September 1999.  The interviews were to continue but he never returned during the course of the audit.  He was said to be suffering from stress.  One of the most disturbing aspects was that this Asset Manager did not deny any of the evidence put to him, in his opinion he was only doing what was expected of him, and if he didn’t do it then he would be replaced by someone who would.  The Asset Manager consistently blamed the then Shell Managing Director Malcolm Brinded for the pressure he was under.  Organisational changes under the codename enhanced Expro had reduced the numbers of competent staff he required to operate the four large rent installations and the gas nomination contract compelled him to maintain production especially during periods of high demand where health and safety requirements were ignored to maintain production at all costs.

This Asset Manager had issued an instruction that no work at all was to be carried out offshore that might accidentally cause the process to trip, the now infamous Touch F***All (TFA) policy.  The work that was prohibited was to include any scheduled maintenance on process or safety critical equipment resulting in huge maintenance backlogs.  To cover this up, actual levels of maintenance was falsely reported, for example, on Brent Bravo the reported level of compliance for safety critical maintenance was 96% against a target of 100% but the actual level was verified at 14%.

Bullying, harassment and coercion was the order of the day

In particular the management of the Brent field was observed to be carried out in a hostile environment of extreme denial.  Staff were being bullied and threatened and through this process conditioned to do what was expected of them.  In this respect the Asset Manager was in his way only passing down the line the treatment he felt was being imposed on him.  In his efforts to reduce costs, the jobs staff did offshore were combined with staff forced into positions for which they lacked competence, but if they made a mistake, they were punished by disciplinary action.  This lack of competent resources offshore was to play a part in the fatal accident since the number of unapproved temporary pipeline repairs stacked higher and higher over the prolonged period from 1999 onwards because there were insufficient competent people to approve such repairs.  This was a finding of the subsequent public Inquiry.  Over the period 1999 till the fatalities some 500 such repairs were initiated almost half of which were not approved.  On average there was a leakage from a hydrocarbon pipe in the offshore operations every 6 days, all these classified by HSE as dangerous occurrences.

Outsiders were bullied also!

The effects of this TFA culture were not only felt by direct employees on the installations.  Independent inspectors employed under contract were regularly persuaded to sign off whole sections of safety critical equipment as being in good working order without actually being allowed to go offshore by the Asset Managers to inspect this equipment.  When eventually allowed to go offshore, many months, and sometimes a year or so later, they found the equipment they had signed off as being compliant with its performance standards, to be in an unserviceable condition.  When asked under interview the response from the inspectors was the same as what you have read before.  The inspectors complained to their management but were told soldier on, do your best, this is a lucrative contract, we can’t afford to lose it, if we don’t to it Shell will simply give the contract to someone else who will.

In Shell day to day operations to violate was common – you could do any work you wanted but don’t raise a permit!

One of the most serious concerns in 1999 was violation of procedures particularly the permit to work system (PTW).  If a Shell OIM or Supervisor signed a permit allowing work to be carried out, and that work accidentally caused the platform to shutdown, they knew they were going to get it in the neck.  Their name was on the permit and the irate Asset Manager onshore would search out the culprit.  With no permit, the Supervisors could disclaim any association with the event that caused the installation to shutdown.  The Managers and supervisors offshore had simply learned to cope, as the post fatalities Review carried out by Shell explains, they had become conditioned by the working relationships between themselves and their onshore Managers. 

So by 1999 work that should have been carried out under a permit was driven underground, carried out in a clandestine fashion under what was euphemistically called the operations umbrella.  The Asset Manager accepted all this under interview, he was under considerable stress but blamed the then Shell Expro MD and Chairman Malcolm Brinded for his ills.  The audit notes taken at the time of the interview describe the Asset Manager as having psychopathic tendencies in that he appeared cold, and dispassionate, uncaring for those under is control.  He did not appear to associate his actions with the risks those actions might have on workers offshore.

In my role as a Shell International Lead Auditor in 1999 I recommended to Shell Directors on 22 October of that year, that the Asset Manager, his Deputy, and his boss be suspended pending an investigation into their actions.  This did not happen.  Instead, Malcolm Brinded, considered by the 1999 Audit findings to have through his business drivers and messages been primarily responsible for the chronic weaknesses observed in Shell Expro, brought the audit to a premature close.

Was all this investigated by Shell?

A Shell internal investigation into the conduct of Brinded was carried out in 2004/5 following the Brent Bravo fatalities.  This investigation found that the dismissal of the Lead Auditor and premature end to the audit was responsible for the audit recommendations from 1999 not being implemented, the audit team lost focus, and was savaged for its findings in daring to apportion blame to its MD Malcolm Brinded.  If I digress for a minute in a matter of interest to the reader through dealings with Brinded’s legal Counsel I was able to get Brinded to apologise to the members of his 1999 internal audit team for the way he treated them.  The same legal counsel worded a statement from Brinded accepting that there were shortcomings in the implementation of this audit but this statement was never issued to the Shell community worldwide.  Brinded feared such a statement would kick open a hornets nest since it totally contradicted what Shell had said in its press release of June 16 2006.  Not only did RDS lie to the public it lied to its own staff.

So it will now come as no surprise to the reader and as backed up with the attached evidence that the Shell investigation into Brinded’s conduct in 2005 found no evidence that the immediate actions to reduce risk on Brent Bravo were ever undertaken and the longer term actions to correct behaviour were never completed.

The investigators considered the dismissal of the Lead Auditor in 1999 as unacceptable and that this contributed to the Audit loss of focus and the failure to implement the audit findings.  This failure to implement was a direct contributor to the deaths on Brent Bravo some 4 years later in their opinion.  When asked why he had not considered the suspension of the Managers in 1999 Brinded said that he did in fact consider the removal of the Asset Manager but desisted through concerns for his mental health.  The removal of this Manager may drive him over the edge.  The investigators called this decision in their report inexplicable.  To me the Brinded decision was easily explained.  If he had removed, or disciplined the Brent Management team at the time, it would have been seen by the Aberdeen employees that in fact the audit findings were totally justified, he could not do that, he had already told his masters in The Hague that all this stuff was a storm in a teacup and he would sort it out.  At the same time he had his Production Director Chris Finlayson explain to the interested journalists that this TFA thing was wildly exaggerated by the workforce at the very same time as his auditors were telling him that the concerns were valid and much worse than reported.  The Asset Manager was just using language of the street to get a message across to offshore workers.

What Finlayson said is recorded on the BBC Scotland website by the reported Colin Wight.  If any researcher is interested, this was on the 9th September 1999. The comments also carried in the Scotsman and Aberdeen Press and Journal newspapers.

How friendship with an Oil Minister helped Brinded to survive

Running concurrent with the 1999 Audit was the OSD investigation into the offshore workers concerns re the Shell Touch F–All (TFA) policy adopted by the Brent Asset Manager.  During the course of the 1999 Audit the question was asked, why did OSD not act on the concerns raised by the workers, the situation as uncovered by the audit was that things were worse, far worse, than had been alluded to by the media?  So what was going on? And why did OSD not act? The evidence that the workers concerns were valid was right before their eyes, if they had only looked for it.

The author was informed as Lead Auditor in 1999, by the Shell Aberdeen internal audit Manager, and this can be corroborated, that Malcolm Brinded had asked the then Oil Minister to intervene, to put pressure on OSD officials, to back off their investigation.  This appeal was apparently acted upon.  It appears as explained to me, this was a finding from internal audits, that Brinded had developed a special relationship with the Oil Minister Helen Liddell, a friendship formed when Brinded headed up a UK offshore Oil Industry cost saving initiative with the acronym CRINE.  The relationship was thought to be platonic. Liddell later supported Brinded in obtaining his nomination in the Queens Honours list for a CBE.

In light of all the above, what was done, what actions were taken?  The development of a strategy by Shell to survive

At a meeting held in July 2005, in the presence of the newly formed Royal Dutch Shell Company (RDS) CEO Jeroen van der Veer, his legal Counsel Beat Hess, the investigation team consisting of the RDS Chief Internal Auditor, Jakob Stausholm and the Group Environmental Advisor Richard Sykes, and the author, all the above was discussed and a strategy developed.

Van der Veer was in a tight corner, he did not doubt the validity of his own investigation findings.  This meeting was held only months after the reserves crisis that had in its wake created RDS.  This crisis had seen the summary dismissal of the Chairman and Executive Director of the then Shell International EP group of Companies.  With the reserves issue still simmering the Shell reputation was in the gutter.  The newly formed RDS had appointed Brinded as it Executive Director, the right hand man to Van der Veer.  Brinded, was presented to the media, stakeholders and investors as a clean pair of hands, a sort of knight in shining armour. He would return RDS to it well-published core standards of honesty and integrity in everything it did.

The dilemma for Van de Veer was that Brinded, according to the investigation we were discussing, had more or less single handily caused directly or indirectly, only a Court could determine, the deaths on Brent Bravo for the reasons as explained to him by his investigators.  So if Van der Veer threw Brinded to the wolves he was condemning the newly formed RDS to another crisis.  There also were the political ramifications to consider.  What would the British and Dutch public think when they learned that the inappropriate intervention of a UK government Minister, as a favour for their newly appointed Executive Director, even be it that she may have made this intervention in good faith, had such fatal consequence.

In a second crisis months after the first, billions could be knocked off the value of the Company with a subsequent fall in its share price, markets and investors would see the newly heralded improvement in corporate governance within RDS as a sham.    There was also the distinct possibility that the RDS Executive Director Malcolm Brinded could face corporate manslaughter charges.  What Van der Veer had to do was inexcusable, but in his position, totally justified.

This could not be allowed to happen, so what could be done, let’s blame the dead! 

The strategy developed by Van der Veer was quite clear.  After all he said Brinded did not sign permits.  Was it not a fact that the deceased had carried out the work without a permit?  Let’s hang on to that fact in shaping how we can deal with all this.  So the collusion with the OSD officials, underway immediately after the fatalities, would continue.  Shell would plea-bargain with Ernest Barbour, accept full responsibility for the deaths, accept the consequences re prosecution, but with the qualification that the deceased were primarily responsible for their own deaths.  By this means RDS would lobby in conjunction with OSD, and hopefully with the aid of Ernest Babour, from whom they would continue to hide the facts, that there was no requirement for a Fatal Accident Inquiry. If such an Inquiry was held there was always the unacceptable risk for RDS and OSD that the truth might emerge.  This was the only escape route for both parties.

This strategy almost worked.  Anyone who can remember, or who cares to research, can acknowledge that the early statements from the then Lord Advocate were that a Fatal Accident Inquiry would not be necessary.  All the facts relevant to the deaths had been aired at the prosecution of Shell at Stonehaven Sheriff Court.  However, for some reason, probably due to pressure from Trade Unions and politicians it was decided after months of procrastination that an Inquiry would be held.  It then became doubly imperative that Shell and OSD make sure that no evidence from 1999, especially Touch F-All and its effects, or from the Shell post fatalities Review in 2003, ever got into the hands of Ernest Barbour.

So why did OSD go along with this, what motivated them? They were after all supposed to be an independent Regulator, immune from external pressure

Only days after the fatalities on Brent Bravo in November 2003 OSD officials were given the findings of a Review carried out with some urgency by Shell to ascertain if the problems apparent on this installation were local to that installation or widespread throughout the field.  This information was given to them by the Shell Production Director in Aberdeen, Greg Hill. He told OSD that violations of procedures was still common across the field as was knowingly operated plant and equipment whilst it was in a dangerous condition all this associated with criminal neglect for maintenance of safety critical equipment such as fire and gas detection systems and Emergency Shutdown Valves (ESDV).  Installation Asset Managers were operating in an uncontrolled way and autonomously with no regard for Shell Codes and procedures carrying out design changes to plant and equipment without prior approval from a competent person, in Shell parlance a technical authority.

So for example, as explained in writing by the then Lord Advocate Angolini to the MSP Christine May in 2007, over a prolonged period of time unapproved repairs were being carried out on hydrocarbon pipelines to patch these up such that when, on the instructions of Greg Hill, the operators walked every line they found hundreds of such unapproved repairs across the oilfield. 

The OSD officials namely Bainbridge, McLaren and Powell, were aware that these situations had developed in 1999 when they were provided evidence in October 2003, by the author only days after the fatalities.  The OSD position was that they had not been made aware of this major audit in 1999, or its findings at the time, which coincidently was an offence in Law for which Shell were never held accountable.  So only days after the fatalities OSD officials had the complete picture from what was presented to them by the author in October and what Greg Hill had presented to them in November 2003, in that the underlying causes of the deaths stemmed back at least to 1999.  They, like Shell, were in a spot of bother.  

They had, following the intervention of the Oil Minister, aborted their investigation into TFA.  Although they did not confirm this at the meeting in October 1999 Bainbridge who was the senior OSD official stated that the OSD investigation into the workforce concerns was in his words incompetently handled.  Shell would no doubt have reminded OSD officials that if they fell on their sword they would take OSD with them.  OSD officials could have ignored the intervention of the Minister in 1999 but they could now see that their incompetent handling of TFA etc might if made public lead to legal action against them at worst, but certainly at best, their reputation would, like that of Shell, be in the gutter.

But this was not the only issue OSD were anxious to hide.  In 1995, as a follow up to the Piper Alpha disaster a new suite of Regulations were enacted by parliament.  These were the Offshore Installation Prevention of Fire, Explosion and Emergency Response regulations commonly referred to as PFEER. 

One of the key aspects of this legislation was that Operators were to have the performance standards for safety critical equipment verified as being compliant by independent competent persons.  This is commonly called the Verification scheme.   But by the late 90’s the effects of the TFA policy were in full swing.  Between 1999 and prior to the fatalities in 2003 failure to comply with PFEER was common throughout the Shell operations.  Despite issuing 11 improvement notices and 2 prohibition notices to counteract this, in total 33 serious breaches of legislation, the response from Shell appears to have been totally inadequate.  In October 2001, a Principal Inspector for OSD wrote to Shell corporate managers informing them of his concerns quoting that Shell had been in continual breach of PFEER legislation for over 18 months.

Under pressure from Trade Unions OSD carried out a series of inspections only months before the fatalities in 2003 and in essence gave Shell a clean bill of health.  Trade Unions were critical of this OSD finding. One of the installations inspected by OSD was Brent Charlie which after the fatalities was found to have 46 temporary repairs on pipelines of which 28 were not approved with some of these materially defective, that is in the same condition as the repair on Bravo that had caused the fatalities.  In relation to PFEER it had 30 fire and gas systems in a fail to danger state that is with a high probability that they would not function in an emergency. The main riser ESDV, and process ESDV were known not to comply with the mandatory performance standards, refer to Bundle B2. 

So the oversight by OSD, despite their efforts, had clearly failed to reduce risks to protect people.  This no doubt was another motivational factor in keeping all this from any future public Inquiry. 

So what did the OSD officials do?

So immediately after the 2003 fatalities both parties, Shell and OSD, realised that it was in their own vested self-interest that all this was to be hidden from public scrutiny.  Working closely with Shell they developed their common strategy.  Tom McLaren, who mainly dealt with Ernest Barbour, would shape the evidence provided to Barbour at the Shell prosecution.  There would be no mention at all of TFA or the Ministerial intervention which took place in 1999, no mention of their incompetence and their failures over the prolonged period from 1999-2003 to enforce improvements in Shell operations. 

OSD to achieve the cover-up got under the table agreements from Shell to commit to repair the situation as highlighted in the data Greg Hill had given them.  This was estimated to be circa £800 million.  This repair and refurbishment would be undertaken informally, no enforcement actions would be taken by OSD, no improvement or prohibition notices would be raised, production on the affected installations would continue unabated, no risk assessments would be conducted by OSD or Shell, all this would simply give the game away to the unsuspecting Ernest

Barbour, and the offshore workers, were kept blissfully unaware at the time of the risks they were exposed to. 

Therefore in October 2003, although Brent Bravo was shutdown, all the ingredients were in place for another major accident event on the other installations still operating.  Despite this, OSD officials took no action to protect people by reducing risks immediately and subsequently as explained, no mention of all this was heard at the prosecution of Shell at Stonehaven in 2005, or at the subsequent public Inquiry in Aberdeen in 2006.

My plea to OSD on 22 May 2005 to pass all this evidence to Barbour and the Lord Advocate to be used in the prosecution of Shell, and to support the holding of a public Inquiry was ignored.  This was a setback, what would happen if Bill Campbell sent his evidence to the CPS directly.  So Tom McLaren arranged a short meeting with Barbour, he discussed the 22nd May letter but withheld all the detailed evidence.  He could not discredit the evidence but with the support of Shell told Barbour that the evidence that Campbell had was not relevant, it had been given to them for information only, both his position and that of Shell was that the evidence was the ranting and raving of a disgruntled ex Shell employee.  What OSD were not aware of, neither were the Shell people he was dealing with in Aberdeen, was that Campbell had been re-employed by Royal Dutch Shell in February 2003 and in fact on the day of the fatalities was leading a major audit for Shell on a Woodside facility in Australia.   

Did the HSE investigate the role of OSD officials?

According to the findings of an HSE investigation into the conduct of OSD officials Bainbridge, McLaren and Powell completed in late 2006 I was informed by the HSE CEO in writing that my letter was discussed with Barbour but none of the evidence I provided was passed to him thus corroborating the actions of their OSD official.  The CPS position is now clear and not contentious that the first time Ernest Barbour saw the evidence, and realised that he had been misled, was when this was passed to him by me at the commencement of the public Inquiry.  According to the Area Procurator Fiscal who looked into the allegations that Shell may have bribed OSD officials to hold back this evidence, Barbour on receipt of my letter to him in November 2005 discussed this evidence with the Sheriff who stated that he could not accept the evidence because it went well beyond his remit of his Fatal Accident Inquiry.  A more general Inquiry would be needed to look at the wider implications of why the underlying causes of the deaths had persisted over such a prolonged period of time.  As previously discussed no such more general Inquiry ever took place.

How, after the media attention given to this subject in June 2006 did Shell manage to cover it all up?

Much of this is explained in the evidence bundles.  RDS did not get off to a very good start when the BBC passed me information given to them by Greg Hill that the 1999 audit had not been followed up properly and that maintenance records of safety critical equipment had been falsified, behaviour not only apparent in 1999 but still customary in 2003.  As a punishment to Greg Hill Shell coerced him into leading the press team and he was forced to make the press release by Shell on 16th June to media and Shell employees that the allegations made by the BBC and the Upstream magazine were false and misleading.  The press release contrary to the facts stated that significant improvements had been made to safety offshore following the 1999 audit. Hill knew this to be wrong but like Stausholm and Sykes was told to toe the party line or suffer the consequences.

The Shell behaviour of bullying, harassment and coercion extended to anyone who stood in their way

RDS took umbrage at the BBC for passing off the record comments to the author. They wrote to complain that the producer and director of the BBC Scotland programme The Human Price of Oil had the audacity to pass the comments of Greg Hill to me as these were off the record.  The frontline Scotland series of programmes did not last long after the airing in June 2006 and the producer left the BBC shortly after the Shell letter to the BBC Scotland controller.

Using the same desperate vindictiveness the journalist Chris Hopson from the oil industry magazine Upstream was essentially forced out by Shell; firstly they withdrew their advertising budget from Upstream, and then increased it significantly, as a reward to Upstream, when Hopson left the magazine.  The journalists from the Times, Carl Mortished, and the Guardian Terry McAlister were also threatened by legal action by RDS, none of which materialised, but no doubt this had some effect on the owners of these great broadsheets.  The Times had published the allegations that ESD valves etc in 1999 and 2003 had falsified maintenance records and so desperate was Van der Veer to cover this up that he denied this to the Times ignoring the evidence of his own audits and wrote to me also in the same vein.  This correspondence is in the evidence attached.

Thus we have the CEO of questionably the World’s, certainly Europe’s largest Company, coming down from the ivory towers to get personally involved in the detail.  He had no option, the stakes were so high.  In a later interview with Terry McAlister van der Veer insinuates that BBC Scotland spun their programme to make it more attractive to their audience, such was his desperation to smooth troubled waters.

What happened to Hill, Stausholm and Sykes?

Within weeks Hill was sent to Singapore along with Stausholm, who had been removed as Chief Internal Auditor, to get them as far away geographically from the scene of the crime as they could.  Stausholm had been foolish enough, he was a good and compassionate man, to phone me with commiserations to tell me that he had been humiliated by his employers and told to hold his tongue if he wanted any meaningful future in the Company.  Unfortunately for Stausholm, his conversation with me was taped and offered at the time to him, he never took up the offer.  Both Hill and Stausholm had left Shell, along with Richard Sykes, within a year of the Shell press release.  I hope that they did so because they were disgusted and disenchanted by the actions of their employer and the treatment they received.

How OSD continue to cover all this up by deceiving the public and parliament

OSD working in collusion with Shell, as explained in this document, allowed RDS to make their press release denials in June 2006 without comment or correction because it aided them also in the joint cover-up.  I complained to the HSE CEO Geoffrey Podger at the time in a letter – also copied to the RDS Chairman – but he to my knowledge took no action.  OSD had been given the opportunity to comment on the BBC Scotland programme ‘The Human Price of Oil’ in 2006 but refused to do so, keeping quiet appears to have been the order of the day.

When in 2007 these issues were brought to the attention of MP’s and the UK parliamentary Select Committee relevant in such matters, OSD officials, namely Tom McLaren passed false and misleading information to the Undersecretary of State at the Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP).  And by this process misled a significant number of MP’s, including the then Secretary of State for Scotland, who also had raised concerns at the time with DWP.  Both Ian Whewell, who was then Head of OSD in Aberdeen, McLaren’s boss, and the HSE CEO Geoffrey Podger accept that what McLaren told the MP’s via DWP was false and misleading, and as such was not authorised by them.  Despite all the above as far as I have been made aware no OSD official involved in this debacle has ever been subject to disciplinary action.

OSD has made changes to prevent this happening again

The investigation by the Procurator Fiscal completed in 2009 did uncover that OSD has made significant improvements in their organisation to prevent such corruption taking place again.  What these improvements were has never been made public.

Changes have also been made to the way offshore accidents are investigated

Also the role of the Procurator Fiscal Depute to singularly make decision re prosecutions etc for wrongdoing by Offshore Owners and Operators, held at the time in 2003 by Ernest Babour, has been made redundant.  Now in Scotland the decision on whether to prosecute Operators offshore for wrongdoing has been handed to a separate group of HSE and CPS officials located in Glasgow well apart from any undue influence that could be placed upon them when located in the oil village that is Aberdeen.

Failing to tackle Touch F-All at the time has cost Shell millions

As for Shell, at the latest public statement they have expended some $1.8 billion to recover the situation.  Malcolm Brinded the Executive Director of the joint Company Royal Dutch Shell had escaped unscathed other than he was told he would never succeed Van der Veer to the high office he so craved. He agreed to step down from Shell in February this year.

The Two Faces of Greg Hill – told to lie to save his boss Malcolm Brinded

This information in the tables supports the statement made by the Shell Internal Investigation Team leader Jakob Stausholm, in a taped telephone conversation that Hill to save the reputation of the newly formed Royal Dutch Shell, was forced to lie.  This lie was repeated in February 2007 by the Chairman and the full Board of Directors.  Hill left Shell to become the President of the Hess Corporation EP operations. Although he would have assisted the CPS investigation he was never approached to do so. 



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