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Special relationship between a Shell oil executive and a Government Minister contributed to offshore deaths?

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 09.24.14Love hurts: How a special relationship between a Shell oil executive and a Government Minister contributed to offshore deaths 


From: John Donovan 


Date: 9 March 2015 22:50:38 GMT

Cc: Campbell <Cambell

To: [email protected]

Dear Baroness Liddell,

I understand you have received an email from Mr Bill Campbell, the highly esteemed retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International.

As you are aware, it relates to your alleged contact some years ago with Mr Malcolm Brinded, when he was a Shell Managing Director whose responsibilities included Shell North Sea Platforms. 

First some information about me.

For the last decade I have been operating a website focussed on Shell:

As you will see if you visit, the site publishes forthright articles about Shell and also feeds news stories to the mainstream press. 

See article: TV, Radio, Newspaper and Magazine Coverage, relating to the Website Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com.

An article published by The Observer provides a good example of a news story we generated about Shell. It also gives an idea of the vast traffic the site receives, which includes visits from the mainstream news media.

Story: Strange tale of Shell’s pipeline battle, the Garda and £30,000 of booze: 11 August 2013

I have published many articles originated by Mr Campbell, many relating to the Brent Bravo affair.

I have never failed to publish any article submitted by him, but when allegations are made, I naturally wish to give named parties the opportunity to comment and correct any inaccuracies. 

I now offer you that opportunity in relation to the article printed below, drafted by Mr Campbell.

If I receive no response by Friday evening of this week, I will assume that you do not take issue with any part of the content relating to you and will publish the article on news related websites, including my own. 

I have already published the document entitled “The Case Against Malcolm Brinded.”

Yours sincerely

John Donovan


Love hurts

How a special relationship between a Shell oil executive and a Government Minister contributed to offshore deaths 

In 1999 things had been going swimmingly for Malcolm Brinded.  He as a young man had been assessed at recruitment into Shell as a potential high flyer.  And by 1999 he was well on his way up the ladder, already serving as Managing Director of the oil and gas exploration and production business for the company Shell Expro in the UK.  He was bound for the top of the slippery pole, marked down as a future leader of the super multi national. 

But in 1999 he ran into very serious problems, his future prospects were in jeopardy.  

A major internal audit requested by Shell Expro management, and which commenced in August that year in Aberdeen, found criminal neglect of maintenance offshore was on an industrial scale especially within the operations of the Brent field.  The audit found that there was nothing wrong with the Shell standards, its codes of practice, its business processes, no, it was the messages from the top of Shell Expro, the business drivers, that were causing the unacceptable behavior observed both on and offshore. Much of the blame was pointed upwards, at the door of Malcolm Brinded himself. 

Running parallel with the Shell internal audit at the time, were the concerns of offshore workers about the state of affairs offshore. The trade unions had raised these concerns with the Offshore Safety Division of the HSE in Aberdeen.  These concerns being made public when they were aired by the media highlighting what the unions thought to was the root cause of the problem, the notorious Touch F All instruction, issued by the Brent Asset Manager to his people offshore. 

Malcolm Brinded was in a bind, he could see his bright future slipping away, so he asked his close friend Helen Liddell, then the Minister for Energy, to intercede on his behalf, and use her influence to get the HSE investigation into the unions concerns halted. This is what Malcolm admitted at the time to his Chief Auditor under interview.  

This intervention cleared the then Oil Director, Chris Finlayson, to issue a robust press release with a complete denial saying that the workers concerns were exaggerated, just an inappropriate use of language, and that the HSE supported this statement putting the matter to rest.  The author, acting as Lead Auditor in 1999, tried several times to get Finlayson to retract his press release but he couldn’t do this he said, his boss wouldn’t let him. 

Brinded also used this denial of the implications of Touch F All to survive.  To dampen and cover-up the workers genuine concerns, with his bosses at the Shell international corporate headquarters in The Hague. 

On the 22nd October 1999 at an Audit presentation to the assembled Shell Expro managers in Aberdeen, the author recommended that the Brent Management Team, i.e.  the General Manager, his Asset Manager and Deputy, all located in Seafield House, remote from the main Shell Expro office at Tullos, be suspended pending an investigation into their conduct.  This did not happen.

During the audit from August till late October they had done nothing to reduce risks to workers. They had allowed the Brent offshore installations specifically to continue in operation with no immediate remedial actions to reduce the intolerable risk levels as advised.  But in 1999 Malcolm Brinded as MD couldn’t and didn’t suspend his Brent managers or shutdown the Brent installations to carry out remedial work, and he couldn’t let his own Audit run to conclusion.  Any of this would have set the alarm bells ringing in corporate headquarters in The Hague, and would give the game away, so he did nothing.  

As a direct consequence of this four years later two workers were killed on Brent Bravo when gas escaped from a materially defective and temporary pipe repair. In 2004 at Stonehaven Sheriff Court, Shell had pled guilty on all counts to operating the installation Brent Bravo whilst it was known to be in a dangerous condition.  This all brought about by the criminal neglect of essential maintenance, over a prolonged period of time, on equipment that was critical to the safety of employees on that installation.

An internal investigation completed by May 2005, into what had happened in 1999, and specifically into Malcolm Brinded’s behaviour at that time, found that his actions to cover-up the true effects of Touch F All in 1999, had contributed in the words of Shell’s top lawyer to the deaths on Brent Bravo.

Thus it was, that a special relationship, thought not to be sexual, but a close bond, formed over a year or two when they worked together on a variety of North Sea projects, between Brinded and Helen Liddell had compromised the Government Minister whose actions in 1999 clearly contributed towards the deaths on Brent Bravo. 

She must have known at the time that if the union’s concerns were as Shell stated,  an over exaggeration, a misunderstanding, that condescendingly the Touch F All instruction was only written that way so as to be clearly understood offshore in a language that they would use and understand, then Malcolm Brinded would not have needed her to intervene on his behalf.

So in the secret society that is modern day Scotland, despite Alex Salmond’s reply to the author, that in all respects related to the health and safety of employees at work there should be openness and transparency, this whole affair was covered up by the Scottish authorities, to avoid the embarrassment flowing from the personal intervention of a Government Minister, who by 2003 was now in the role of Secretary of State for Scotland, and whose personal intervention had led inexorably to the deaths on Brent Bravo.

Bill Campbell


NO RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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