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Shell’s Criminal Neglect on Brent Bravo

Bill Campbell comments on an article published yesterday by The Times: Shell slashes North Sea costs to make profit in a crash


In Aberdeen and Southern operations in the eighties and nineties low oil price periods were quickly reacted to by reducing operating costs mainly maintenance and inspection which equates roughly to 70 percent of OPEX expenditure in a steady state operation with no drilling ongoing.. It is relatively easy to do.

That you suffer for these cuts further down the line with serious integrity issues is the reality of the situation where the Management team making the cuts have long since moved onwards and usually upwards.

For example a major audit in 1999 found 20 temporary clamps fitted to corroding hydrocarbon pipes offshore. Nothing was done. By 2003 there was some 600 temporary clamps and the failure of one of them caused a major incident and two fatalities. To try and recover the irrecoverable situation Shell Expro expended some £800 m over the next 6 years, their data not mine.This criminal neglect of maintenance caused the premature abandonment of Brent facilities by 4 years or so.

Back to the article, there is ABSOLUTELY no way you can cut operating costs by 70 percent without slashing to the core maintenance and inspection, including testing activities, I just hope by some miracle we do not suffer for this in the future.



Inappropriate attitudes, skills and behaviour were evident specifically in the operation of the four Brent installations

Violation in operating plant and chronic non compliance with safety related maintenance driven by the need to meet production targets under the gas nomination contract – the touch FA instruction

Violation and deviation from the PTW was common.  Examples of PTW violation included not visiting the work-site, and issuing a number of permits simultaneously to one work-site supervisor.  Asset teams had markedly different interpretations of what can or cannot be done within the PTW.  On Brent Bravo a lot of work was being done under operations rules to avoid raising a permit – a permit might after all get knocked back in the Touch FA climate.

Corrupt and flawed independent verification process – goal widening rather than goal setting regime, if the Safety Critical Equipment (SCE) could not meet its approved * performance criteria then the criteria of acceptance was simply raised, e.g. for ESD valve LOT from 1 scm/m to 20scm/m

Deficient Corporate internal audit and management review process

Inadequate communication and consultation with the workforce particularly on enhanced risk levels at the workplace

Throughout the organisation people are aware of the problems and issues but remain passive – they are generally afraid.  Some senior staff indicated in interview to audit team members that they are reluctant to speak out on some major concerns that they have because they will not get support from senior management

In enhanced Expro the Asset Manager role is a powerful position and there appears no independently robust check and balance, specifically within operations of the Brent field.  Production was to be maintained at all cost.  The offshore installations were micro managed on a day by day basis from onshore by the Asset Manager and his deputy.  Decision-making, risk taking was the prerogative of the Asset Manager who established and maintained this negative safety culture through instructions such as Touch FA and his acceptance of daily violations of accepted operating practice and procedures.  The OIMs essentially did as they were told.  It was not that the Asset Manager was ignorant of the risks he took, but rather he did not seem to care

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