FRISCO — Eager to exploit the Arctic for fossil fuel resources and to live up to shareholder expectations, Royal Dutch Shell rushed into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans,” according to a U.S. Department of Interior report released this week.
Key failures included Shell’s inability to get certification for an oil spill containment system required to be on site in the event of a loss of well control. The report said the company’s failure to deploy the system was due “to shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors.”
The company said it wants to better prepare its equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage.
In a press release, Upstream Americas (a Shell subsidiary) director Marvin Odum said, “We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way. Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012,” Odum said. Continue reading “Shell to ‘pause’ Arctic offshore drilling program”→
Recent mishaps, lack of data cited in request for suspension of operations
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Citing huge data gaps about the basic ecology of the Arctic Ocean, as well as a string of recent accidents and near-misses in Royal Dutch Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, a coalition of environmental groups this week asked the Obama administration to suspend fossil fuel development in the region.
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.
Critical containment gear damaged in final tests as drilling deadline looms
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — After a whirlwind summer of drilling, melting sea ice and failed safety tests, Shell Oil has backed of plans to tap into oil beneath the Chukchi Sea, at least for this year.
In a final setback, the company’s containment equipment was damaged, resulting in another delay that brought Shell too close to the Sept. 24 deadline for oil drilling.
“It is clear that some days will be required to repair and fully assess dome readiness. We are disappointed that the dome has not yet met our stringent acceptance standards; but, as we have said all along, we will not conduct any operation until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to do it safely,” Shell said in a statement, adding that it plans to continue preparatory drilling. Continue reading “Shell delays Arctic oil drilling”→
Government report shows cursory testing with no detailed engineering data
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Some observers are hoping for the best when it comes to Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling plans, because the company clearly is not prepared for the worst, at least when it comes to testing critical equipment needed to prevent massive blowouts like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.