About these ads

Questions arise about Alaska’s role in Shell’s latest fiasco

The anchor-handling vessel, the Aiviq, tows the drilling unit Kulluk to a safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

The anchor-handling vessel, the Aiviq, tows the drilling unit Kulluk to a safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Documents suggest loopholes in state’s review of emergency response plans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Alaska officials may have failed to adequately vet a tugboat under contract to Royal Dutch Shell before the company used the vessel to tow a conical drilling rig on an ill-fated trip that ended up with the drill rig running aground on a remote island.

Working in stormy seas at the end of December, the 360-foot Aiviq lost its towline with the 266-foot-wide Kulluk. Aiviq then suffered a complete engine shutdown. The Kulluk went adrift and ended up on the rocky shores of the remote, unpopulated Sitkalidak Island.

According to documents obtained under a public records act request, it appears that the State of Alaska’s oil spill prevention requirements did not cover the towing capacity for the Aiviq.  Instead, the state only looks at the ability of the towing ship to be towed itself, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Responding to the records request, state officials said they didn’t have any information  regarding the Aiviq’s towing capabilities, towing winches, tow lines, or associated equipment … because Shell never specified that the ship would be used to tow a drilling rig.

“In other words, the state only looked at what Shell told them to look at, not what was most important; the towing capability of the Aiviq,” PEER board member said Rick Steiner, a retired university professor and  oil spill response expert. “This latest episode underlines the continued inadequacy of official contingency planning when it comes to Arctic conditions that demand we expect the unexpected,” he said.

Steiner previously helped bring to light that Shell’s testing of oil spill containment equipment was conducting in conditions nothing like the company might encounter during actual drilling operations.

PEER is also suing the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the agency overseeing offshore oil and gas operations, to force public release of the safeguards required to protect against such known hazards as sea ice, subsurface ice scour and blowouts, as well as specifications for well design and well integrity control.

“As events unfold, the more that is learned about the true state of preparations against environmental disaster in Arctic waters, the more scared everyone should become,” said PEER director Jeff Ruch, noting that the State of Alaska repeatedly proclaims its commitment to “responsible Arctic development” by requiring “Best Available Technology” in offshore operations, a standard misplaced for the runaway Kulluk.

“Alaska learned the hard way that trusting Shell can come back to bite them,” Ruch concluded.

Links via PEER:

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,612 other followers

%d bloggers like this: