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The Uncensored History of the Shell Brent Oil and Gas Field


By John Donovan (updated 18 November 2016)

Energy Voice has announced that it has teamed up with Shell to “celebrate 40 years of Brent”.

A series of related “promoted” articles are being published. I take that as meaning Shell is paying for the articles. If this assumption is correct, the only history included will be of the whitewashed variety.

I doubt there will be any reference to the consequences of Shell’s appalling safety record on the Brent platforms, with falsified safety records, a “Touch F*** All” regime in regard to critical equipment maintenance, followed by the cover-up and the deaths on Brent Bravo, leading to a record-breaking fine. Will the unseaworthy lifeboats get a mention? Of course not. Shell continued to put production and profits before safety. Just read this index of related articles.

1. Shell Brent: Decommissioning is the name of the game: 7 Nov 2016

This article mentions John Jennings, now known as Sir John Jennings. I met him twice and we got on very well, unlike my subsequent contact with his hapless successor, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. Shell’s “value creation teams” were set up on his watch. This move resulted in the oil reserves scandal that destroyed the Shell Transport and Trading/Royal Dutch Petroleum partnership.

2. Shell Brent: All set for topsides lift come the spring: 7 Nov 2016

The second report concerns the Allseas Pioneering Spirit, said to be the biggest vessel in the world. Originally named after a senior Nazi SS officer until a campaign I launched triggered a global outcry. It’s a safe bet that the Nazis name debacle will not be mentioned in the articles.

 3. Shell Brent: Good fields tend to become great fields… Brent is a perfect example: 9 Nov 2016

All positive. Nothing negative. Could have been authored by Shell PR.

4. Paul Goodfellow: Shell’s iconic Brent field, 40 years on: 10 Nov 2016

This article does contain a reference to the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Chinook helicopter crash and claims that “safety remains a key priority for Shell.” A refrain that has been repeated for many years by Shell executives despite a disastrous safety record that indicates otherwise. 

5. Shell Brent: Heroic is the only adjective to describe it: 14 Nov 2016

Seems to be a repeat of the first article?

6. Shell Brent: A snapshot of the decommissioning story so far 16 Nov 2016

All positive. Nothing negative. Could have been authored by Shell PR.

7. Offshore Decom Conference: Shell says sector still plagued with inertia: 16 Nov 2016

More PR

8. Shell Brent: Last operations manager reflects on ‘best job in the world’: 17 Nov 2016

Same again.

The was an earlier article published by EnergyVoice on 1 November 2016 under the headline: Chinook Remembered: Memories of crash will stay with me forever (not part of the Celebrate Brent series of articles)

Shell Brent: Sir Ian Wood, industry and politicians hail North Sea achievement: 18 Nov 2016

In another PR piece, this was the only paragraph containing negative history:

“Brent has had its share of human tragedies, such as the Chinook crash at Sumburgh thirty years ago, which was remembered this week, and of environmental controversies, as with the ill-fated decommissioning of Brent Spar in the 1990s.”

Bill Campbell, the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International may be interested in taking up the published invitation from Energy Voice, reprinted at the foot of this article. Bill led the Brent Bravo safety audit team. He knows all about the related cover-up going to the very top of Shell at the time – Malcolm Brinded and his boss Jeroen van der Veer, the first CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the company that emerged from the ashes of the former Anglo-Dutch partnership.


To celebrate and capture the rich history of Brent, Shell is commissioning an e-memory book and an oral history project. If you have an unforgettable Brent story, or have an old photo or memory you would like to share, you can submit them at The oral history project will be interviewing a selection of candidates from a variety of roles and years to record the highlights and uncover the less widely known stories from the last 40 years. Digital recordings will be donated to The University of Aberdeen who will share these stories with anyone who is interested, from family members and researchers, to students and the public. Please contact if you would like more information about these projects.

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