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Shell Drill Rig Kulluk Heavily Damaged – To Be Put on Oceangoing Drydock and Moved to Asia

11:59 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kulluk on the beach 01:01:13

I have now received word from two anonymous sources on Kodiak Island that it appears damage assessment of the Shell Oil drill rig Kulluk is far worse than has been thus far disclosed by the Unified Command:

Severe hull damage, making it unsafe to tow it to Puget Sound.

Severe power plant damage from saltwater contamination

Severe damage to wiring, ventilation and other internal control systems

Supposedly, a very large, oceangoing dry dock will be underway soon to Kodiak from Asia, and the rig will then be brought to Asia, most likely Korea, where it has been worked on before.

At present, the rig is being attended in Kiliuda Bay, an the southern shore of Kodiak Island by the tugs Pt. Oliktok, Warrrior, Lauren Foss, Ocean Wave and Corbin Foss.  Also on the scene is the anchor-handling vessel Aiviq, oil service vessel Nanuq, and the recently arrived oil service vessel, Sisuaq.  Several other smaller vessels are also present.  The Kulluk is now at anchor in the bay.

Kulluk attendees - 01:28:2013 @ 10-30 am

I called the 17th U.S. Coast Guard District headquarters this morning for possible confirmation.  I was told they have no public information, and referred to Shell Alaska’s press representative, Jennifer Taylor.  She did not answer my call, and there was no message service.  The Unified Command HQ has ceased to list a contact phone.  I contacted Shell’s U.S. media relations for the Kulluk incident, and was able to leave a message.  I also left a message with the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Oil Spill Prevention and Response.

The latest information published by the Unified Command on the vessel’s condition was posted back on January 18th, nine days ago.  In the UC release, it was stated in part:

•  Multiple entities are involved in the review of data, including: the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas. These reports involve precise calculations; it is important to ensure the accuracy of any reports in order to develop the next steps for the Kulluk. At this time there is no firm date for completion of the damage assessment report.

•  Once the damage report is completed, the Kulluk and any plans to move the vessel will be evaluated before it is moved to its next location.

•  Water did enter some spaces of the vessel through damaged hatches. However, the water has been captured and is being safely stored in a compartment.

•  The damage discovered on the Kulluk is consistent with what is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground. The fuel tanks are intact.

•  Points of entry for water into the Kulluk are being sealed (i.e., windows and hatches). Additionally, tow brackets are being added for preparation for the next move.

Alaska blogger, Steve Aufrecht was just one of many who has been frustrated by the extended news blackout at Unified Command.  He has written several posts on the incident and is increasingly frustrated by his inability to find out anything of substance:

But they aren’t just mum about damage extent.  They are mum about everything.  At least at the news briefings there was a chance to ask questions to real people.  But the last one, to my knowledge, was January 5.

Aufrecht is a retired Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the fact that he is this upset is significant.

Alaska’s leading maritime oil spill expert, retired University of Alaska Professor, Richard Steiner feels that if my Kodiak information on Shell’s Asia renovation and repair plans turns out to be accurate, Shell’s 2013 Alaska drilling season, perhaps even 2014′s, are non-starters.

Thursday, I discovered that Sen. Mark Begich’s proposed hearing (he’s chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard) on the Kulluk and Shell’s readiness to drill off our shores will be held sometime in March.  I asked his office the following questions:

1. When will the hearing or hearings take place?

2. Where will they be?

3. Will witnesses be sworn in?

4. Do you plan on subpoenaing any documents, such as the Aiviq log book, correspondence and phone records between Shell and the Aiviq crew prior to departure from Dutch Harbor, or other important records?

5. Will the entire subcommittee participate?

Friday,  in Washington DC, a small number of pro-environment organizations held a congressional briefing on Shell’s 2012 string of screwups and near-disasters:

Environmentalists from Alaska are hoping to persuade Congressional staffers Shell Oil should not continue its drilling operation in the Arctic this summer.

The groups held a Congressional briefing on Friday.

Congressional briefings are free of the formalities and TV cameras of Congressional hearings. And they lack the members of Congress themselves.

And many in this town think that’s a good thing, because it’s the staffers who attend the briefings. And it’s the staffers who have the policy expertise. The briefing was organized by the office of California Democrat Barbara Boxer – she chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

I suppose one aspect of Shell’s attempting to hide this as long as they can may be the impact such adverse news will have on the value of their stock share price.

I’ve seen a lot of poorly managed operations in Alaska over the years, but this clusterfuck (a term first used by my informant at the Arctic Challenger containment dome testing fiasco, several clusterfucks ago) clearly sets a new standard of haplessness, negligence, lies and coverups. Read the rest of this entry →

Documentation of Increasing Crude Leakage at Deepwater Horizon Blowout Site

10:01 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The Gulf of Mexico-Lower Mississippi River watchdog group, On Wings of Care, was able to take advantage of good flying, good photographing weather, and calm seas Sunday, to overfly the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill area.  Here’s a short description of what was found there:

the most troubling vision today was the Macondo area itself.  The slick that we had first noticed last fall, which was spreading over the area within a half-mile or so of the scene of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, was huge today. It stretched over 7 nautical miles in the south-north direction and was almost a mile wide in some spots. There were some patches of rainbow sheen and even some weathered oil (brownish “mousse”), although overall it remained a light surface sheen.

The flight also took them over expanded coal terminals on the lower Mississippi, a new access road being bulldozed through wetlands, and another ongoing oil spill – the “chronic Taylor Energy slick.”

The blog entry about Sunday’s overflight contains a very large amount of photographs and supportive data, such as GPS coordinates, Google Earth plots and the aircraft’s flight log.  It is a must see, not just for the images of the obvious ongoing leakage spill at the Macondo site, but for a look of the sheer scale of the coal ports being rapidly expanded on the lower river, and of environmental degradation in the delta.

Back to writing an update on Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fiasco.

Hat tip to Zach Roberts.

Artists as Environmentalists – The Spreading Gulf Tragedy Begs A Nationwide Call to Action

11:38 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

As the oil hits the reefs, offshore bars and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, are we faced with another Exxon Valdez catastrophe? Yes. Can we learn from that disaster in how this ongoing tragedy is documented by artists? Absolutely. Here is some of how we can do it. You may add your suggestions too.

I. In 1989, the internet did exist, but not many people had access. Graphic interfaces that led to the many free web browsers were limited, and didn’t do much. Few people had cell phones. The cable news paradigm as we now know it didn’t yet exist. CNN was there on Prince William Sound, but not in a big way. National and Anchorage newspapers were much healthier then than now, and made earnest efforts to cover events. The same was true of NPR and Alaska’s outstanding Alaska Public Radio Network. The influence of AM talk radio was much more primitive than it now is. Blogging was pretty much limited to what were called "newsgroups."

In 1989, when local Alaskans and interested independent journalists descended upon the scene, they were limited in methods they could use to document the ongoing tragedy by technology, communication and basic logistics. The technology was bulky, and mostly analog. The communication grid at the sites of the spill was limited to VHF and Single Sideband maritime and aviation-based radio. The logistics of getting there in late winter, miles from the ports of Valdez, Cordova, Whittier or Seward, was convoluted, and most charter boats and planes were already chartered or overbooked for the cleanup by the third day of the spill.

Environmentalists were mostly limited to helping in efforts to save individual animals once the animals had been brought to Valdez, Seward or Anchorage. There was no real time coverage of the growth of the spill by any parties outside of the mainstream. From the beginning of the spill, Exxon and the USCG attempted to attenuate and spin how the outgoing flow of information was handled. Over half the people Exxon flew into Alaska or Valdez on the morning of the spill were attorneys.

From the moment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I was involved with artists who were or are also ecologically motivated. In the ensuing years, I’ve worked with several artists who documented aspects of the EVOS (Exxon Valdez oil spill) through visual, graphic and audio art. In the early 1990s, I toured with bronze sculptor Peter Bevis, as we presented his compelling castings of victims of that and other spills. We called our presentation "Artists as Environmentalists." There have been tenth and twentieth anniversary gallery shows in Alaska that have looked back on this. The most recent, produced by Homer’s Bunnell Street Gallery, SPILL: Alaskan Artists Remember, toured several communities last year.

In this collaborative process, I’ve learned a few things that might help those who hope to create visceral, living art about all the dying that is beginning to occur. Here are some suggestions:

II. In covering the Gulf tragedy, artists should attempt to capture the essence of what this is – a massive wave of death. There will be many compelling stories of people who manage to deploy a boom or clean an oiled bird, or come up with an innovative idea that might actually have a beneficial local effect. Documenting these instances is a good thing, but try to present the small and heartening victories in a realistic overall context.

As often as possible, artists should try to partner with local ecologists and environmental activists, from the areas where damage is happening. Try to understand these people as individuals, and visibly show them physically performing their tasks.

Avoid contacts with national environmental organizations. They do not understand what motivates independent artists. If you don’t make cute watercolors or coffee mug logos for brochures, fundraisers or auction events, they don’t understand you. Nor do they want to.

Try to find venues that can help you live stream what you are documenting. Hopefully, viable nodes for dissemination of images and artistic impressions of this will develop over the coming weekend. When they do, spread the word, possibly steering artists and other documentarians toward those sites that are becoming most effective.

Seek out folk musicians, rappers, slam poets and other artists who have a following among the very young. Develop some new collaborative co-ops for the purpose of truthfully recording what is going down.

It is likely that the spill will hit Cuba. If you are or know an artist with Cuban connections, you might consider getting your travel permissions going right now, as it sometimes takes a while to get all the papers in order.

BP, the USCG and Homeland Security will all give dozens of dog-and-pony shows in communities either in the line of fire, or recently slimed. Attend these events, and record the impressions of locals who came to them, especially right after they’ve been fed the inevitable total line of crap, such as "we will make you whole again."

III. Please add any further suggestions you might have in the comments.

Artists can uniquely portray ecological catastrophe. They can partner with ecologists, environmentalists and community activists, to give perspective on what has happened that nobody else can.

Here’s a remembrance of animals, from the EVOS disaster.