Arctic Increasingly Open for Drilling. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
January 2, 2013
WASHINGTON — One of Shell Oil’s two Arctic drilling rigs is beached on an island in the Gulf of Alaska, threatening environmental damage from a fuel spill and calling into question Shell’s plans to resume drilling in the treacherous waters north of Alaska in the summer.
The rig, the Kulluk, broke free from a tow ship in stormy seas and ran aground Monday night. The Coast Guard was leading an effort to keep its more than 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants from spilling onto the rocky shoreline.
At a news conference in Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon, Capt. Paul Mehler III, the federal on-scene coordinator, said that a reconnaissance flight showed the Kulluk was upright and stable, with no significant motion.
“The results are showing us that the Kulluk is sound,” Captain Mehler said. “No sign of breach of hull, no sign of release of any product.” He said the response team hoped to get salvage experts aboard the ship to get a better picture of damage.
On Saturday, the Coast Guard evacuated the Kulluk’s 18 crew members due to weather safety concerns.
“The extreme weather conditions and high seas continue to be a challenge.” said Susan Childs, Shell’s incident commander. “Our priority right now is maintaining the safety of our response personnel and evaluating next steps.”
The Kulluk was used by Shell for exploratory oil operations in the Beaufort Sea earlier this year.
Shell also used the Noble Discoverer, another drill ship, in the Chukchi Sea, and it was reported last week that the Coast Guard cited it for crew safety and pollution-equipment violations during a November port call in Seward.
Great video of crew rescue here from Weather Channel.