Shell Arctic Icebreaker Damaged – Drilling Possibly Affected

July 8, 2015

OK, now -if you still haven’t listened to the key segment in Dave Barber’s TED talk, above, do so. (starts at 9:14)

One of the takeaways from the Economist’s Arctic Conference in March, was that this Arctic stuff, ice, or no ice, is a harder slog than the rah-rah enthusiasm of 5 years ago would have lead you to believe.

UPDATE: Rachel Maddow’s very impressive reporting on the situation:


Don’t believe that drilling in the Arctic is some kind of slam dunk, even for the world’s largest corporations. And don’t believe that a fossil fuel future is inevitable – we are at an inflection point right now.  The low prices for oil globally are causing even the largest players to rethink, and many smart observers to wonder if we are in some kind of oil end game.  The remaining “exotic” oil in places like the Arctic, ocean deep water, and Alberta Tar Sands, depends on a continued high price for oil – but markets are not cooperating.
And importantly, don’t believe that because the Administration ok’d this particular venture, that they don’t know this.

Fuelfix:

WASHINGTON — Shell’s drive to resume Arctic drilling this summer has hit another speed bump, with the discovery of a hole in the hull of an ice management vessel meant to safeguard the company’s operations in the Chukchi Sea.

fennicaThe MSV Fennica was on its way from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to the Chukchi Sea on Friday when a ballast tank leak was discovered by crew members and a certified Alaska marine harbor pilot on board the vessel. It was traced back to a gash about 39 inches long and 2 inches wide.

The 22-year-old icebreaker has since returned to the port in Dutch Harbor and is being examined by marine experts, but it is uncertain how quickly the breach in its hull can be repaired and whether this will delay Shell’s hopes to begin drilling an oil well in the Chukchi Sea later this month.

The Fennica is just one of the 29 vessels in Shell’s Arctic fleet, which includes another icebreaker, the MSV Nordica, and at least two other anchor handlers tasked with helping to keep ice away from the company’s drilling site. But Shell’s contracted Fennica is unique in that it is carrying a critical piece of the company’s Arctic containment system: a capping stack designed to fit on top of a damaged well in case of a blowout or other emergency.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company does not believe the incident will delay the company’s planned Chukchi Sea operations. But, he noted, “any impact to our season will ultimately depend on the extent of the damage.”

Wall Street Journal:

The Arctic is a prize that Shell competitors like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. aren’t pursuing for reasons ranging from collapsed oil prices to Western sanctions against Moscow. Even state-controlled giants like Russia’s OAO Rosneft have put Arctic plans on hold this year. And a consortium including Exxon and BP PLC suspended its Canadian Arctic exploration program on June 26, saying it wouldn’t be able to complete its work before its lease expires in 2020.

It could be a year or more before Shell knows whether it is sitting on a bonanza of crude or drilling one of the most expensive duds in history. Anything less than a blockbuster would be a significant setback for the company, Shell executives say, and a blow to oil development in the U.S. Arctic.

“Everybody’s watching to see if we’re going to fail or succeed out there,” said Ann Pickard, an executive vice president who runs Shell’s Arctic division. “If we fail for whatever reason…I think the U.S. is another 25 years” away from developing Arctic resources.

Ms. Pickard said that if the company fails to turn up oil in its best prospect, a drilling area called Burger-J, “I would probably recommend that we walk away.”

Anchorage Daily News:

Unalaska Mayor Shirley Marquardt said some marine pilots in Dutch Harbor suspect the ship may have been damaged by underwater debris, possibly left over from World War II — a common threat in the rugged region that might not show up on charts until ships are gouged or massive anchors haul up waste.

Once, a concrete mixing truck was pulled up, she said. Pilots have said massive anchors abandoned on the sea floor with flukes and shanks several feet long could have caused the Fennica’s gashing, she said.

She said the crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Fairweather, a hydrographic survey ship in Dutch Harbor as part of an effort to update nautical charts in the region, has agreed to survey the area where the damage may have occurred. That work is supposed to begin Wednesday, she said.

“Pilots are going, ‘What the heck is down there?’ ” she said.

Pilots have told her the damage is a thin slice “like you were opening up a can,” she said.

2 Responses to “Shell Arctic Icebreaker Damaged – Drilling Possibly Affected”


  1. […] In musing about the possible affects of a sudden large release of arctic methane, Dr. Box tweeted that humanity would be “f’d” – if a significant fraction were released. A lot of journos picked up on the “f’d”, but forgot the “if”…. We have some challenges ahead, and a lot of scientists are somber about humanity’s prospects – but not to the point of giving up. (see post below) […]

  2. indy222 Says:

    Damaged drill….. pardon while I cry some crocodile tears for Shell. OK, I’m done.


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