Shell North Sea Management Scandal between 1999 and 2003: Article by a “Shell Insider”: 10 July 2006


There are many thousands of Shell employees around the world who strive to work honestly and very hard to comply with the Shell published Codes and Standards of business. They will be devastated to hear that a “Bandit” group of about six Managers, from the very top downwards, have been able to bypass all the checks and balances built in to prevent wrong doings and have been circumventing these controls for such a long time without detection. I think the message to them is “check your back yard and make sure the same thing is not happening to you “.
Did Shell allow a disastrous lapse in safety standards in the lead up to being audited by Shell International in 1999 and again between 1999 and 2003?  All indications are yes they did.
The results of the 1999 audit were accepted, but nothing was done and the modus operandi of non-compliance with the approved Safety Case continued until 2003 when two lives were lost. If the findings of Bill Campbell’s 1999 audit had been acted on in correctly, then all the Brent Platform would have been gleaming in every way possible by 2003. The 2003 post accident audit uncovered an even worse situation prompting massive budget allocation to “put things right”, an after the event or Company image damage limitation exercise. Decide for yourself after reading Bill Campbell’s “right of reply”
Bill Campbell whom I have known all of his 24 years in Shell is a person if you were in trouble he would help you in any aspect he could. His description in some of the media articles as a safe pair of hands does not do him justice. He is a greater man than I.
Following the BBC Scotland “The Human Price of Oil” screened on 14 June 2006 Shell issued statements to the media and world wide Staff inferring that Bill Campbell was disillusioned and emotional ex employee trying to undermine the Shell Groups good name. Shell went as far as threatening legal action against one media source if it published any more articles.
Following the Cullen recommendations implementation period, Safety Operational Management Cases were written, procedural documents were written and communicated to all levels of Staff on and offshore. Massive hardware changes were made to comply with the ALERP principles. Operating parameters were laid down with stringent procedures to guide us all on what we could do and not do. Variations had to be assessed and fully discussed and approved at the appropriate level before any changes were permitted. A fully traceable paper trail was in place for everything.
So what happened pre audit 1999, and in the period 1999 – 2003?
Management had changed, re-organisations had taken place, many Shell positions had been replaced by Contractors. The new Shell Europe was about to be created. At this stage staff had to re-apply for their jobs, and there were not enough jobs available for everyone. Who in this climate would stand up against an all-powerful “bandit” - no one it seems. Failure to comply with the Safety Case went unchallenged after all Brent had high up times and even were rated as best in class by a Mackenzie survey! Things were very good or were they. Many corroded and leaking hydrocarbon carrying pipes were temporally repaired with neoprene strips and hose clips called “patches”. Budget was refused time and time again. The patch which failed resulting in the September fatal release of hydrocarbons was on the job list for replacement during the summer 2003 shut down but was deferred. The offshore staff had long ago given up the fight and accepted the situation. A classic and well documented case of “Human reliance on defective equipment” (refer to the HSE 2001/53 report on this subject).
Bill Campbell even tried to get evidence to the Fatal Accident Enquiry but his attempt was judged very interesting but not relevant due to the time intervals. It appears that the Technical ability of the persons advising the Procurator Fiscal failed to make the importance of the connection between audits and refused to allow Bills contribution.
What next?
Shell clearly failed in its duty to operate its North Sea Assets according to the approved Safety Case. Shell has attempted to refute the contents of its own internal audits driven by the same “Bandits” who failed to take action when they should have done in 1999.
This group are despicable and dangerous men requiring external pressures to ensure they are brought to justice thus exposing them to the full force of the Law together with Public opinion not forgetting the wrath of the Shareholders influence.

Name, background details and email address supplied on a confidential basis.

Two HSE documents were supplied with this article. They are accessible via the links below.
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HSE:  Preventing the propagation of error and misplaced reliance on faulty systems: A guide to human error dependency

HSE: Temporary/permanent pipe repair - Guidelines


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