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. Continue reading “Questions arise about Alaska’s role in Shell’s latest fiasco”→
The Department of Interior acknowledged the problems Shell encountered in connection with certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger; the deployment of its containment dome; and operational issues associated with its two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk. Continue reading “Feds to review Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling program”→
SUMMIT COUNTY — Even as salvage workers prepare to tow Shell’s stranded Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, away from where it’s stranded on the shore of an Alaskan island, progressive members of Congress say they want to know how the accident happened.
FRISCO — A grounded Shell oil-drilling rig appears to be upright and stable along the coastline of an Alaska island, with no apparent signs of environmental contamination yet, according to the latest update from the response team.
No details have been announced about how Shell plans to recover the grounded rig, the latest in a string of incidents and problems involving the company’s Arctic drilling equipment.
The Kulluk was part of the Shell’s test drilling program last summer. According to the company, the vessel is loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other oil-based drilling and mechanical fluids.
The incident started Dec. 28, when the tow barge, the MV Aiviq, lost power while towing the Kulluk off the coast of Kodiak Island. Crews were able to restore power to one of the Aiviq’s four main engines, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the drilling rig from breaking free and running aground on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage.
A team of six salvage experts boarded the grounded drilling unit Kulluk Thursday to conduct a structural assessment to be used to finalize salvage plans.
The six-member team was lowered to the Kulluk by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at about 10:30 this morning. The assessment lasted about three hours. The Coast Guard helicopter and crew also delivered a state-owned emergency towing system to the Kulluk, which will be used during salvage operations.
Smit Salvage is heading up salvage operations. Smit is a highly experienced salvage company that has assisted in hundreds of operations worldwide, including the Selendang Ayu salvage that took place off the coast of Western Unalaska in 2004. It also assisted in the Costa Concordia salvage off the coast of Italy in 2012.
The information gained from the on-site assessment will help evaluate the available options for freeing the rig from its grounded position.
The company has also been cited for deficiencies aboard another drilling ship, as detailed in this L.A. Times story. Shell also struggled with required tests of capping and containment equipment this summer, leading conservation advocates to call for a moratorium on Arctic offshore drilling until the equipment issues are fully resolved.
Shell Oil struggling with keeping control off its Arctic oil drilling equipment
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — While pressing ahead with plans for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, Shel Oil has been unable to maintain control of its equipment. In the latest accident, one of the company’s oil drilling ships ran aground New Year’s Eve on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage.