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Royal Dutch Shell safety concerns

Royal Dutch Shell safety concerns

The energy multi-national Royal Dutch Shell, has faced campaigning activity on its safety record and Health and Safety working practices, particularly in relation to its North Sea platforms, following the tragic death of only two offshore workers after a gas leak on its Brent Bravo platform on 11 September 2003. Representations made by offshore unions and by Bill Campbell, the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International, have attracted the attention of the news media resulting in numerous articles being published on the subject. Shell has consistently maintained following the Brent Bravo accident, that it gives first priority to the safety of offshore workers and all Shell employees.

This article focuses on Shell’s health and safety record.

Developments in March 2007

In March 2007, several newspapers published articles in relation to Royal Dutch Shell safety issues.

On 5 March 2007, The Guardian newspaper published an article under the headline “Shell safety record in North Sea takes a hammering”. It reported that Shell had been warned repeatedly by the UK Health and Safety Executive – the “HSE” – regarding the poor state of the company’s North Sea platforms. The article stated that on 13 November 2006, Shell had been served with “a rebuke and a legal notice that it was failing to operate safely”. An Aberdeen sheriff’s court had previously ruled in a Fatal Accident Inquiry that Shell could have prevented two deaths on the Brent Bravo platform if it had properly carried out a repair. Shell had earlier admitted responsibility for the Brent Bravo accident. According to The Guardian, on the day of the sheriff’s report, the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee had complained that the Brent Bravo platform still had “leaks, dangerous stairs, and lifts left broken for six months”. The article went on to say that in the summer of 2006, Shell had said that it was in the middle of a $1bn (£515m) programme to upgrade the platforms, claiming: “Safety is and will remain our first priority.” The Guardian report drew attention to the HSE website which said that Shell was “issued with 10 improvement notices during 2006” and also pointed out that “Notices are served where the HSE considers a company is operating unlawfully with unacceptable risks”. The article also revealed that “Last year, Shell was embarrassed when Bill Campbell, one of its senior safety consultants, claimed the company was operating a weak safety regime and said some employees had been falsifying documents. Shell denied the charges, but Mr Campbell has been threatening the company with a defamation case”.

On 15 March 2007, The Wall Street Journal published an article on its online “Energy Blog” under the headline: “Shell’s Safety Problem”. The article compared the safety record of Shell with its rival BP, which has been heavily criticised for its poor safety standards since the deadly Texas City Refinery (BP) explosion in 2005. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the fact that “Royal Dutch Shell was a far more dangerous company to work for in the past two years” and also pointed out that according to an annual report filed by Shell with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on 14 March 2007, 37 Shell employees and contractors died in 2006, compared with just 7 BP employees. In the same filing, Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer was quoted as stating: “Our safety performance in 2006 was mixed” and “We have responded by reinforcing our safety focus through a dedicated global safety function that will improve compliance with standards and procedures worldwide.”

On 20 March 2007, The Wall Street Journal published an “Energy Blog” article on its website under the headline “Shell’s Record Worse Than BP’s”. The article cited a comment in a Wall Street Journal “Energy Roundup” report which said “…though BP has been chastised for its safety record in the past two years, it has not lost as many employees and contractors to death as rival Royal Dutch Shell, which employs roughly the same number of people”. The article also referred to a Financial Times story published on 20 March 2007 under the headline “Safety record is put in the spotlight” which had expanded the Shell/BP comparison to include several oil majors over more years. It quoted from the FT story: “Since 2003, the first year of the Times’s study, Shell has had more global employee and contractor deaths than the other four”. Shell has appointed a global vice-president for health, safety and environment to tackle safety problems and has pointed out that it operates in the dangerous Niger Delta, where militant attacks accounted for 9 of its fatalities in 2006. An update has subsequently been added to the Wall Street Journal article explaining why the headline has changed to “FT Data: Is Shell’s Record Worse Than BP’s? It explains “While it may be true Shell has had more deaths than BP in at least the past couple of years (which we’ve confirmed in their annual reports), it’s worth noting that these tallies are not necessarily the best measure of a company’s safety record, as they do not account for the number of accidents per worker.”


Resolution of Shell safety problems may impact on CEO succession

Concern over Shell safety issues has led to media speculation that the subject may impact on the appointment of a successor to Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive, Jeroen van der Veer, who is retiring in 2009. An article published by The Guardian on 29 March 2007, under the headline “Van der Veer – a safe pair of hands?” stated in reference to Van der Veer, “The one big area where he has fallen down is safety”. It went on to remind readers that the newspaper had revealed a few weeks earlier that Shell had “continued to receive warnings from the Health and Safety Executive that it is acting illegally with regard to safety in the North Sea”. The article concluded that “Mr van der Veer needs to bring a halt to this, and so does exploration and production boss Malcolm Brinded if he wants to stand any chance of taking over the top job”. Another article published by the Guardian on the same day, 29 March 2007, under the headline “Shell chief to stay an extra year beyond company retirement age”, also contained commentary linking the succession with safety issues. It stated: ”There will be a struggle to replace Mr van der Veer among the three managing directors: Malcolm Brinded, head of exploration, Linda Cook at gas and power, and finance director Peter Voser. Mr Brinded, 54, has been seen as a frontrunner but might be vulnerable over North Sea safety after revelations an internal audit found violations of safety procedures and the alleged falsification of compliance documents. Shell denied the latter charge”.


The Brent Bravo accident and aftermath

The only fatal accident for which there is detailed information available is for the Brent Bravo North Sea platform tragedy. Brent Bravo, located about 180 miles east of the Shetland Isles, is one of four oil production and storage platforms in the UK northern sector of the North Sea that make up the Brent field. On 11 September 2003, two platform workers, Sean McCue, 22, of Kennoway in Fife, and Keith Moncrieff, 45, of Invergowrie, Tayside, lost their lives after a sudden escape of gas in a platform leg where they were working. Sixty non-essential staff were evacuated from the platform by helicopter after the gas was detected. According to a BBC News report published the following day, Shell Expro Managing Director Tom Botts said that the emergency response system immediately shut down the platform. Jake Molloy, the leader of the offshore union Offshore Industry Liaison Committee -“OILC”, was quoted as saying that unions had already complained to the HSE about a backlog of maintenance and staffing issues in the Brent Field, particularly on the Brent Bravo platform. The article revealed that the HSE were investigating the accident. On 9 February 2005, a BBC News report revealed that Shell had been charged following the deaths of the two offshore workers. On 31 March 2005, The Scotsman newspaper reported that Shell had admitted at Stonehaven Sheriff Court breaching three health and safety charges in connection with the deaths.

On 27 April 2005, BBC News reported that Shell had been fined £900,000, “thought to be the biggest fine on a company following a North Sea accident” after admitting breaching health and safety regulations. Sheriff Patrick Davies said that a “substantial catalogue of errors” caused the deaths of the two men, but he had taken into account that Shell had “tendered guilty pleas at an early stage”. The two offshore workers who died had been asked to inspect a temporary repair patch on a safety-critical pipeline in the leg. The patch “had been a temporary repair for 10 months”.

On 18 July 2005, a BBC News report revealed that Scotland’s senior law officer, The Lord Advocate, had overturned a decision made by Crown counsel not to hold a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of the two men on Brent Bravo on the basis that it would be in the “wider public interest” for an inquiry.

On 23 June 2006, The Times published an article under the headline: “Unions call for inquiry into safety at Shell”.  Another article was published by The Times on the same day under the headline: “Unions call for inquiry into safety at Shell”. Both articles made reference to allegations made by Bill Campbell, a former senior Shell official.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry Report into the deaths of SEAN SCOTT McCUE and KEITH SCOT MONCRIEFF was released in July 2006.

On 19 July 2006, an article about the findings of the Inquiry was published by The Times under the headline: “Unions call for manslaughter law after Shell deaths inquiry”. It reported that “The six-month investigation into the deaths on Brent Bravo in September 2003 concluded that the accident could have been avoided if Shell had done a proper repair of a pipe”. It went on to say “The victims, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue, died from a huge gas escape from an illegal repair to a corroded pipe when they descended into the concrete leg of the platform to make an inspection”. Shell was said to have accepted the inquiry findings. The Times article pointed out that Bill Campbell, a former Shell engineer, had come forward with details of a platform safety maintenance review carried in 1999 on the Brent Bravo platform. It said that Campbell’s audit team found “widespread violations of safety procedures and alleged falsification of records”. The article revealed that “Mr Campbell, who retired from Shell in 2002, believes that the Brent Bravo deaths could have been prevented had the company responded adequately to his finding that platform maintenance was being delayed to sustain oil and gas output. He tried to put his evidence to the inquiry, but the presiding sheriff declined to admit it on the ground that it was beyond the inquiry’s scope”. Shell was quoted as accepting the 1999 audit’s findings, saying that it responded with improvements. However Shell insisted that there was no verifiable evidence of falsification by platform management as Campbell had alleged.


Allegations made by Bill Campbell, former HSE Group Auditor of Shell International

In June and July 2006, over a dozen articles were published by the news media revealing serious allegations by Bill Campbell, a former Shell International Group Auditor, whose name, as a result, is now inextricably linked with the Brent Bravo story.

Campbell’s allegations were the subject of a programme broadcast by BBC Scotland’s investigative current affairs BBC 1 TV programme Frontline Scotland in a feature entitled: “The Human Price of Oil”. An article relating to the programme was published by BBC News under the headline “Shell ignored accident warning”, one of a number of BBC news reports on the subject. The Guardian newspaper published three articles, the first with the headline “Shell accused over oil rig safety”; the second entitled “Call for inquiry into oil rig safety regulator and the third “Shell confesses to poor North Sea safety record and pledges reform” A series of articles was also published by Upstream Online a respected weekly petroleum industry publication which also operates a related petroleum news website.

One of the most astonishing allegations was that “top directors of Shell Expro in Aberdeen, the UK arm of the Anglo-Dutch group, allegedly sanctioned a policy widely known as Touch Fuck All (TFA) whereby offshore installation managers were told to stop any work with the potential to cause unplanned shutdowns”. The following paragraph is also taken from the same article by UpstreamOnline entitled “Shell in the safety firing line”.

“The allegations levelled by Campbell against Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s group chief executive for global E&P, who was in charge of the UK business at the time, and his oil director Chris Finlayson, who is now country president of Shell Russia, claim the two men ran an operation where production took priority over safety concerns”.

Shell was quoted as rejecting Campbell’s charges. Shell said “The allegation regarding operating with high-risk levels is untrue and we absolutely refute this. Safety is and will remain our first priority offshore”.

On 31 August 2007, The Guardian newspaper published an article profiling Jeroen van der Veer, the Chief Executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The article by Guardian journalist Terry Macalister stated in reference to Van der Veer: “He also makes clear he was hurt by the coverage of another fiasco – when a Shell consultant, Bill Campbell, blew the whistle on safety breaches in the North Sea.”


Concerns expressed by Bill Campbell

On 1 September 2007, The Daily Mail newspaper published an article about a safety campaign conducted jointly by Bill Cambell and the website The article said: “ROYAL Dutch Shell is getting rattled by a ‘gripe site’ that alleges there are safety problems with its North Sea oil platforms.” The article revealed “An internal Shell email admits the firm has been thrown ‘on the back foot’ because of claims put forward on the website.” It went on to say “Campbell has emailed hundreds of MPs alleging Shell hasn’t yet properly tackled health and safety failings.” The article featured a number of quotes from Shell internal emails revealing a state of uncertainty at Shell about how to deal with the allegations. One stated: “As it stands we’re on the back foot and our aim should be to develop a strategy (or options) that puts us in a more positive and secure position.”[citation needed]

In his letter to MP’s, Campbell stated: “I am a former Group Auditor of Shell International. I am writing to you on a matter of conscience in an effort to avert the inevitability of another major accident in the North Sea”.

In response to the allegations, a Royal Dutch Shell spokesman was quoted in the Daily Mail article as saying: ‘Safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times. Shell strongly disputes any suggestion that we would compromise safety offshore. No fatalities are acceptable.’

The Daily Telegraph published an article on Saturday, 9 September 2007 with the headline: “Pressure on Shell over safety of platforms.” It said: “Royal Dutch Shell is facing a growing campaign about alleged poor safety on several North Sea oil platforms, with Britain’s biggest trade union and a former executive of the company calling on MPs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate.” It went on to say “Mr Campbell, who has teamed up with a website that has been highly critical of Shell, appears to be of increasing concern to the company.”


Offshore unions voice safety concerns over pending sale of Shell North Sea assets

On 6 September 2007, BBC News reported that “Two offshore unions have called on the Health and Safety Executive to investigate Shell’s operations in the North Sea.” The unions were seeking “reassurances over worker safety”. They claimed “Morale is also at an all-time low and the departure of several key personnel has created gaps in safety critical positions…” The concerns stem from the pending sale of some Shell North Sea assets. The unions said that following Shell’s announcement that the installations were for being put up sale “communications between the company and the offshore workforce had deteriorated to the point it was impacting on operational safety.”

An article also published on 6 September 2007 by The Aberdeen Press & Journal, stated “Graham Tran, regional officer with the Unite union’s Amicus section, and the OILC’s Jake Molloy, say there are gaps in “safety-critical positions” on Shell installations which are up for sale.” The article went on to say “A joint statement from the unions says morale on the Shell installations is at an all-time low and that several key workers have left the company in disgust at the treatment they have received.”

On 4 October 2007 Christopher Hopson of UpstreamOnline, the leading oil industry publication, reported on high level talks between the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Shell in relation to complaints by off shore worker unions over important safety issues. The article said that sources who attended the HSE meeting with management and staff on Cormorant Alpha revealed that the safety watchdog discovered a number of serious problems in the way the installation was being operated. According to the UpstreamOnline article, Jake Molloy, the general secretary of OILC, claimed his members on Cormorant Alpha “believed the validity of their complaints had been upheld and were awaiting the final HSE report to confirm this was the case.”


Oil majors send safety chiefs to summit as criticisms mount

On 30 July 2007, The Wall Street Journal published an article under the headline: “Safety Czar for Shell”.


Shell appointed a global safety executive, after suffering 37 fatalities in 2006, more than double the number had by its major competitors. Kieron McFadyen, a 20-year company veteran, was appointed to instill safety standards and assess risk, especially for remote locations, where the majority of fatalities occurred.

On 14 September 2007, The Independent newspaper reported in an article headlined “Oil majors send safety chiefs to summit as criticisms mount” that “Senior directors from the world’s largest oil companies have agreed to attend a summit meeting next month in order to discuss working together to tackle health and safety issues.” The article went on to say that “Heads of safety from oil majors including BP, Shell and Total will meet together for the first time in order to agree a joint approach to improving the industry’s safety record.” According to the article the “summit meeting” results from increasing concern among oil company executives “that a series of disasters and safety failures is jeopardising their reputation and damaging business prospects.” Shell was said to be sending its head of safety, Kieron McFadyen, to the safety summit.


Health and Safety Executive partially uphold claims about Shell safety

On 8 November 2007, BBC News reported that “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has partially upheld claims that Shell was not doing enough to ensure safety offshore” and that Shell has taken action to address the matters. The article said that the offshore unions Unite Amicus and OILC had asked the HSE to investigate claims from their members which “focused” on manning levels and the attitude of platform management. The article went on to say: “The investigation concluded that aspects of the complaint were justified”. Graham Tran, an official of the Unite Amicus Union was quoted as saying he believed Shell should leave the North Sea as it has “no credibility”. Shell said the company was fully co-operating with the HSE and that it continues to keep its staff and the HSE informed.

Under the headline “More safety breaches found on Shell’s North Sea rigs”, The Guardian newspaper reported on the same day, 8 November 2007, that “Shell has once again been rapped over the knuckles by the Health and Safety Executive for safety problems on its North Sea platforms despite pledges from chief executive Jeroen van der Veer that he was determined to change the culture after problems in the past”. The HSE confirmed that it had upheld complaints about staff levels and operational procedures on five platforms, including Cormorant Alpha and Dunlin Alpha, and asked Shell to take immediate action. The article went on to say: “Shell, which earned £1.5m an hour last year, has been through a torrid time over North Sea safety since one of its own most experienced inspectors, Bill Campbell, blew the whistle on his employer claiming that safety procedures were being repeatedly ignored on some platforms.” Shell said it would not comment “in-depth” on the HSE statement saying that an investigation was continuing. Shell pledged to fully co-operate with the HSE and keep Shell staff informed. The article ended with forthright comments attributed to Gran Tran of the Unite Union expressing fears for the ongoing safety of the workforce on the platforms.

On 22 November 2007, the Guardian newspaper published a further article, this time under the headline: “More than half of North Sea oil rigs fail safety checks”. It stated that “The safety regime at Britain’s North Sea oil operators was condemned yesterday in a report by the Health and Safety Executive.” According to the HSE report, which was based on a study covering nearly 100 North Sea rigs and platforms, inspections had revealed almost 60% had problems that oil companies should have addressed. The article said “Shell is one of those that has been handed a large number of HSE ‘improvement notices’ in recent years and been criticised by its own workforce, although the group itself denies that safety is not top of its agenda.” The HSE report was also covered in a Daily Telegraph article published on 23 November 2007, headlined: “HSE sounds alarm over rigs”


February 2008 allegations of safety concerns over Shell North Sea rigs

On Friday 1 February 2008, Channel 4 News led its flagship evening news programme with a 7 minute package entitled: “Shell North Sea safety concerns”. A related article on its website, where a video clip of the TV news report can be viewed, said: Shell is Britain’s highest ever earning company, announcing profits of £13.9b, but the oil giant is being accused by its workforce of “a severe lack of commitment to safety”. The package contained allegations from a “Royal Dutch Shell insider” alleging critical safety systems on one platform were not working properly and that the safety culture at Shell has shifted from ‘doing the right thing’ to ‘mend and make do’. The presenter Jon Snow said that although Shell had declined an invitation for an interview, the company had insisted the claims were unfounded and safety is its top priority.

On 4 February 2008, The Sunday Telegraph published an article by Russell Hotten entitled “Shell rejects North Sea rig safety fears”. According to the article: Safety conditions on Shell’s five oil platforms in the North Sea have been called into question amid a row over alleged “industrial gangsterism” and claims that a manager in charge of the rigs believes the backlog of maintenance has reached “appalling levels”. The newspaper said that it had seen a leaked email in which a manager said “Backlog on safety critical systems is at appalling levels by any standard and is an issue with the HSE.” The manager warned that the HSE could close the operations. Jake Molloy, the general secretary of the OILC Union claimed it was an admission by Shell that standards on the platforms were poor. He called on the company to put some of its record profits into improving things. Shell said in response: “Safety is our top priority. Two years ago Shell started a $1.2bn asset integrity programme. It is approximately 70 per cent complete.” Shell is further quoted as saying “A number of allegations have been made by unions and staff regarding safety since an announcement on June 14 2007 of plans to offer these assets to potential purchasers. These allegations have been investigated by the HSE and a number of issues have been worked on. However, the HSE has seen no need to either seize any production or to serve any improvement notices.”

On 17 February 2008, the Glasgow Sunday Mail (Scotland) published an article by Kurt Bayer headlined “Shell Shock”. The same email from The Sunday Telegraph article was quoted, including the part saying “Backlog on safety critical systems is at appalling levels…” The article said that the manager who sent it, but denies using the term “appalling”, “seems frantic about a backlog of safety work and terrified of action by Government watchdogs”. It was described as a “foul-mouthed email” demanding the workers do overtime to tackle a “safety crisis”. Graham Tran of Unite Union, was quoted as saying: “Every time I get a call from Shell I dread somebody is going to tell me there has been a major accident. The situation has become a ticking time bomb, an accident waiting to happen“. A Shell spokesman maintained: “Safety is our top priority.”


Shell admits blame for near disaster at Merseyside Refinery

On 23 February 2008 The Liverpool Post published an article under the headline: “Shell admits blame for near disaster at Stanlow”. It reported that “OIL giant Shell has admitted blame for a potentially lethal gas leak at a Merseyside refinery” and said that Shell had pleaded guilty on 22 February 2008 at Chester Crown Court to charges that for several years in the run up to the incident in May 2003, it had failed to comply with regulations covering control of major accident hazards. The article stated: “The energy company has admitted blame for allowing a safety pipe to corrode so badly that it split wide open.” Although no-one was injured Judge Roger Dutton was advised that “if it had exploded, there would have been multiple casualties.” Simon Parrington, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive was quoted as saying: “The escape of gas was caused by Shell’s failure to properly inspect and maintain the pipe. The issue we are concerned with is the toxicity of the gas. It is lethal and could have caused many fatalities.” Mr Parrington stated in court that “if, by chance, the jet of toxic gas leaked from the bottom instead of the top of the pipe, it could have sparked a chain of events leading to death and the destruction of key sections of the plant”. He said that the six-inch pipe in question had been neglected for years. Mr Parrington made the point: “This is a company which has posted £13.7bn in profits and it has huge resources at its disposal.” Graham Wells, acting for the defendant Shell UK, disputed the exact cause of the corrosion inside the pipe but conceded: “The defendant accepts this was a serious matter. The process is one which uses hazardous chemicals and the escape happened because the pipe was corroded. Pipes should not corrode and this is the basis of the guilty plea.” Yuri Sebregts, the General Manager of the Stanlow plant, was quoted as saying: “We responded quickly after the event and since then we have co-operated fully with the HSE in their investigation. Changes have been made to the plant and procedures to ensure the problem will not re-occur.” The Judge adjourned the hearing for sentencing at a later date. A report of the same news story by The Press Association featured in Fleetwood Weekly News on 22 February 2008 stated that: “A HSE inspection of the entire Stanlow site after the incident found no further cause for concern.”


Shell safety critical issues raised in March 2008

On 14 March 2008, UpstreamOnline published an article under the headline: “Pressure rises on Shell”. The article by Christopher Hopson said that Shell is still “feeing the heat” from its Brent Bravo safety record and reported “Shell is under mounting pressure to explain its poor North Sea safety record after fresh revelations showed it has been by far the worst performer in the play, receiving six out of a total of 18 legal notices issued by the UK’s Health&Safety Executive (HSE) over a two-and-a-half year period.” The article revealed that Shell had received more notices than any other operator working in the UK North Sea. The disclosures emerged after a Channel 4 TV News report about serious safety failings on Brent Bravo following an inspection of the platform carried out by the HSE in 2005. Shell was quoted as saying: “On our platforms we employ systems under which our people inspect and maintain safety critical equipment. Our goal is 100% compliance on planned corrective safety critical maintenance on all our platforms.”

In a separate article headlined “Lifeboats trouble at Brent field” also published on 14 March 2008, UpstreamOnline revealed “SHELL’s safety record on its Brent Bravo platform in the UK Northern North Sea is once again under scrutiny after the discovery of technical problems with two lifeboats on the installation that resulted in both of them being removed from service.” Jake Molloy, general secretary of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee was quoted in the article by Christopher Hopson as claiming “If they had loaded up this particular lifeboat, the chances are it could have been launched into the sea in an uncontrolled fashion which would have caused death or injury as it was held in place by corrosion and not by the designed system”. The article said that problems had been found with a second lifeboat on the Brent Bravo platform. It also reported that a lifeboat had launched itself into the sea from Shell’s Tern platform because the brakes and clutches were “dysfunctional” and had damaged the launch mechanism off the platform. Shell confirmed problems had been discovered with two lifeboats on Brent Bravo during “routine maintenance”. Shell was quoted as stating that it viewed the matter seriously and had “mobilised an investigation team on the platform”.

Houston firms facing pipeline fines, penalties: Friday 29 June 2001


And Houston-based Equilon Pipeline Co. was slapped last week with $10 million in state and federal environmental fines for the 1999 rupture of a gasoline pipeline in Bellingham, Wash., resulting in three fatalities.

Equilon also faces a $3 million fine issued last year by the DOT — the largest penalty ever proposed against a pipeline operator in the history of the federal pipeline safety program. The El Paso penalty is the largest ever proposed against a natural gas pipeline operator.

Equilon, a joint venture of Texaco and Royal Dutch/Shell, was majority owner of Olympic Pipeline Co, operator of the Bellingham pipeline at the time of the accident. Since then, BP has taken control of Olympic Pipeline.

Both El Paso and Equilon were charged with violating numerous safety requirements in the operation of their respective pipelines.

Equilon told the state it was not operating the pipeline at the time of the rupture but had simply loaned Olympic several employees, including Equilon’s president, three vice presidents and the head of environmental compliance.

Reuters: Shell Washington refinery cited for safety violations: 25 June 2008

HOUSTON, June 25 (Reuters) – Washington state’s Department of Labor & Industries said on Wednesday it found 23 serious safety and health violations at Shell Oil Co’s 145,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Shell said it was weighing a possible appeal of the agency’s citation, which could lead to fines totaling $109,600.

Among the serious violations found at the Shell Anacortes refinery were failures to identify and control hazards that could lead to releases of highly hazardous chemicals and deficiencies in the development of mechanical integrity programs, the Labor & Industries Department said.

Seattle Times: Safety violations to cost Shell: 26 June 2008

Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries on Wednesday fined Shell Oil $109,600 for multiple safety violations in its Anacortes refinery.

The refinery, the second largest of the four major facilities that supply the Puget Sound region with gasoline and other petroleum products, was cited for 23 violations ranging from inadequately instructing operators on how to deal with emergencies to faulty inspections.

Shell, a unit of Anglo-Dutch oil conglomerate Royal Dutch Shell, is reviewing the citation, said Shell spokesman Brian Sibley. Shutting down the operation is “highly unlikely,” he said.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC is heading up a test venture in Hawaii to turn oil-rich algae into fuel. If the process is found commercially viable, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate could build algae-processing plants elsewhere.

Bloomberg: Nigerian Oil Pipe Fire Extinguished, 6 Workers Died, Shell Says: 17 November 2008

BBC News: Gas firms fined over worker death: 26 November 2008 (Both Shell and AMEC admitted breaching health and safety rules and were each fined £150,000 plus £41,500 in costs at Norwich Crown Court.)

FT article: Shell deaths higher than other western groups: 30 November 2008 (Royal Dutch Shell last year suffered more workforce deaths than any other large western oil company, with a rate of fatalities twice as high as BP’s.)

upstreamonline: Shell death toll ‘higher than peers’ : 01 December 2008 (Last week Shell and service player Amec were each fined £150,000 ($230,000) after an Amec worker died during operations at Clipper.)

The Times-Picayune: Last weekend’s helicopter crash shakes up offshore workers: 10 January 2009

Reuters: Shell gets tough on costs as oil prices bite: 30 January 2009

(Royal Dutch Shell has intensified its cost-cutting efforts in response to the collapse in oil prices and also plans to step up efforts to improve what it said was a “mixed” safety record. Brinded said Shell had a “dreadful start” to this year after 10 contractors and one third party were killed in three incidents. )

International Herald Tribune: Shell gets tough on costs as oil prices bite: 30 January 2009

Reuters: Oil industry cost, job cuts may hit safety, skills: 3 February 2009

The Herald: ‘They know what they have to do: launch the life rafts and get out’: 19 February 2009

(In July 2002, a Sikorsky S76 helicopter was ferrying personnel between a platform and a drilling rig, both owned by Shell, when it ditched about 25 miles north-east of Great Yarmouth, killing all 11 on board. It is understood the aircraft remained afloat after ditching. In March 1991, six men were killed when a Sikorsky S61N struck a crane on a Shell oil platform and plunged into the sea 116 miles east of Lerwick in Shetland.)

The Press and Journal: Alarm over hundreds of offshore incidents: 4 March 2009

The Sunday Times: Oil rigs plagued by safety lapses: 12 April 2009

London Fire Brigade: Shell fined record sum for fire safety breaches: 2 June 2009

The Guardian: Shell fined £300,000 over fire safety breaches: 3 June 2009

Shell slammed on safety: 21 May 2011: upstreamonline


The HSE has told Shell to submit a revised safety case for the Brent Charlie platform after gas was detected on its topsides following leaks on 12 January this year and 27 September 2010, Upstream can reveal.

Norway Raps Shell for Risking Oil Leak: 23 May 2011: The Wall Street Journal


LONDON—Royal Dutch Shell PLC has been rapped by Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority for a maintenance error on an oil well that had “major accident potential” and risked an oil leak.

The failure of all barriers to hydrocarbon flow from a well is very serious. An out-of-control well caused the explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig last year, resulting in a three-month oil spill from a BP PLC well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell slammed for ‘serious’ safety slips: 23 May 2011: upstreamonline


Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell has been hit with a safety order from the Norwegian authorities following an investigation into a well incident on the Draugen platform in December last year. The incident occurred during a wireline operation to replace a gas lift valve in well 6407/9-A-01. The operation resulted in the subsurface safety valve becoming stuck in the Xmas tree, blocking the upper mast valve, and leaving only one barrier against a potential leak.

Shell ‘ignored safety warnings’ before Bacton explosion: 16 June 2011 BBC News


The company has admitted seven safety and pollution offences following the explosion and fire at the Bacton terminal in Norfolk.

Gas terminal blast: Shell fined £1m plus £240,000 costs: 20 June 2011


Shell UK has been fined £1m plus £240,000 costs after an explosion at a gas terminal in Norfolk in 2008.

The company admitted seven safety and pollution offences following the explosion and fire at the Bacton terminal.

Ipswich Crown Court heard the company ignored warnings from staff before the explosion.

Shell ordered to pay $2 million for UK gas fire: 20 June 2011 Reuters


(Reuters) – A British court ordered Royal Dutch Shell’s UK unit to pay 1.242 million pounds ($2 million) in fines and legal costs for a fire at its Bacton gas terminal in 2008 which cut more than a tenth of UK gas supply.

A leak of highly flammable hydrocarbon liquid caused the explosion and fire at a waste water plant in which nobody was killed or seriously injured only by “good fortune,” according to Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

British court fines Shell UK 1.2 million pounds ($2M) over blast in 2008 at coastal terminal: 20 June 2011: The Washington Post


Judge Martin Binning said Monday that workers had warned Shell many times about dangerous conditions at the plant in Bacton, on the Norfolk coast 125 miles (200 km) northeast of London.

Shell UK sentenced over Norfolk gas blast: 20 June 2011: UK Health & Safety Executive


The explosion blew the concrete roof off a buffering tank within the plant, hurling concrete and metal debris over a large area and sucking a nearby drain out of the ground. After investigating the incident HSE and Environment Agency (EA) jointly prosecuted the firm over safety, environmental control and pollution-prevention failures at the plant leading to the explosion.

Oil and gas spills in North Sea every week, papers reveal: 5 July 2011: The Guardian


Shell has emerged as one of the top offenders despite promising to clean up its act five years ago after a large accident in which two oil workers died.

Shell platform to shut down amid continuing concerns about safety: 6 July 2011 The Shetland Times


The Shell-operated Brent Charlie platform 125 miles north-east of Lerwick is to shut down from next Friday on the orders of oil industry regulators amid continuing concerns about safety.

But now the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has served Shell with a legally-enforceable prohibition notice which means the operator will have to cease production entirely. An HSE spokesman declined to give details of the “safety issues” it was concerned about for legal reasons.

HSE feared a ‘catastrophe’ at Brent C platform: 9 August 2011: upsteamonline

The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) feared “catastrophic consequences” on Shell’s Brent Charlie platform because the scale of a long-running series of gas leaks meant ignition was “almost inevitable”, documents reveal.

Revealed: Shell’s poor safety record in the UK: 21 August 2011: Sunday Herald Scotland

Dixon called for Shell’s North Sea operations to be restricted until a full and independent audit of all its facilities had been carried out. “Shell’s poor regard for safety and their terrible communications over the last 10 days should be ringing major alarm bells…”

Shell had oil rig safety warning: The Sunday Times: Scotland. 21 August 2011

AN internal investigation by Shell eight years ago raised serious concerns about safety in the Gannet oilfield, where the company has been battling to contain the worst spill in British waters for a decade. Documents obtained by The Sunday Times reveal that dozens of unauthorised repairs were carried out on Shell’s Gannet Alpha platform.

Warning North Sea oil platforms could be near collapse: STV News 5 September 2011

Former Shell chairman James Smith to lead deregulation of UK oil and gas industry: Daily Telegraph 7 Sept 2011

The minister has written to “stakeholders” in the oil industry urging them to contribute their thoughts, while promising that current standards would not be lost. However, his comments may cause alarm among those who have pressed for tighter regulation in the wake of recent North Sea problems such as Shell’s pipeline leak and concerns from the Health and Safety Executive about platform corrosion.

SCOTTISH OIL RIGS IN DIRE STRAITS: Sunday Express article 11 Sept 2011

Mr Campbell insisted it is only a matter of time before there is another major tragedy in the North Sea. He said: “According to public domain data there were 85 gas releases and 443 dangerous occurrences last year. If you are getting 85 gas leaks that’s one and a half, or two, leaks a week. The probability of an undesirable event is very high.”

HSE Letter to Shell 18 July 2011

External links

  • HSE website
  • HSE news service website
  • HSL website
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