Conditional permits limit operations and set protections for marine mammals
FRISCO — Shell’s Arctic drill plans got a green light from federal regulators today, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a pair of conditions permits for limited exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska.
The permits limit Shell to drilling in the top sections of wells. The company won’t be allowed to probe deep in into the oil-bearing zones until well-capping equipment is on hand and deployable within 24 hours — which still leaves enough time for thousands of gallons of crude to leak into the sensitive and pristine Arctic Ocean. Continue reading “Shell gets federal greenlight for exploratory Arctic drilling”→
“Inadequate assessment and management of risk” was the key factor in the accident, Coast Guard investigators concluded, calling on Shell and its partners to change their company culture to avoid complacency.
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.”
Company responds to violations by asking for permission to emit more pollution
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Environmental groups say numerous and ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act stemming from Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean are yet another sign that the company isn’t prepared to operate in the pristine environment off the north coast of Alaska.
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”→
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.