You are browsing the archive for Shell oil.

U.S. Department of the Interior Releases Review of Shell Oil 2012 Arctic Drilling Operations – The Press Conference – Updated

1:11 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kulluk

Kulluk on the beach

At 4:30 PM, Washington DC time Thursday, outgoing Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and others, held a press conference to announce the release of their expedited 60-day review of Shell’s 2012 Alaska Arctic drilling operations, which were plagued by a series of fiascos.  Along with Salazar, the following DOI officials participated:

• David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior
• Tommy Beaudreau, Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management and Director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
• James A. Watson, Director of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

Here’s what DOI put out in their media advisory:

Salazar will be joined by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, who chairs the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau, who led the assessment; and James A. Watson, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

In January, Secretary Salazar directed the high-level review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – including the company’s preparations for last year’s drilling season and its maritime and emergency response operations – to identify challenges and lessons learned.

I attended telephonically.  The following is the best I could do between trying to quote, and getting fair paraphrasing:

Salazar opened with a statement describing Obama’s commitment to the development of offshore and Arctic regimes, both oil and natural gas.  ”Under the president’s leadership domestic oil production has grown every year …..  Oil imports have dropped to 45%, the lowest percentage since 1995.”

“Last summer we allowed Shell to proceed with limited activity in Alaska’s Arctic.  Because Shell wasn’t able to meet safety requirements, they were only aslloed to drill preliminary holes.  We and the USCG watched closely.

“We learned a lot, partially from Shell’s mishaps.  On January 8th, I directed an assessment and review of Shell’s 2012 activities.”

Salazar notes that Shell came to DOI, to announce their drilling suspension for 2013.  Salazar defers to Beaudreau’s 60-day report.

Introduces “Tommy”:

B describes their “37-page report.”  Participants were also USCG and Price Waterhouse.  B states “Shell also cooperated.  Meetings in Washington DC, Alaska and Washington state.”  Also met with Alaska Native groups, environmentalists and other governmental agencies.

Observations:

All phases of Arctic operations must be integrated and subject to strong operator management and government oversight.

Operators must submit detailed descriptions of operations before,. during and after.

Shell fell too short in terms of management and planning.  Serious violations of permits in terms of discharges and demands 3rd party involvement in management of oversight regime by Shell.

Seems to slam Shell for not using adequate local and professional knowledge.

Turns the mike over to Hayes:

The review confirmed the importance of interagency coordination between Federal agencies in offshore drilling. (I think he is glossing over the 2012 problems severely, as he praises how Fed agencies performed.)

The report confirms the appropriateness of “Arctic-specific standards” for equipment, operations and management.

He all but praises Shell for their performance while actually drilling the lead holes in the Chukchi and Beaufort.

Turns over to Admiral Watson, USCG:

Blah, blah, blah, Shell OK, blah….

Questions from press:

Read the rest of this entry →

Shell Announces It Will “pause its exploration drilling activity for 2013 in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas”

11:27 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kulluk tow

On Tuesday, Shell Oil’s wounded conical drill rig, the Kulluk, was towed out of Kiliuda Bay on Kodiak Island, headed back to Dutch Harbor, and from there, to a Korean shipyard.

Today, the oil giant announced the following:

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” said  Marvin Odum, Director, Upstream Americas.  “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.”

Alaska holds important energy resources. At the same time, securing access to those resources requires special expertise, technology and an in depth understanding of the environmental and societal sensitivities unique to the region. Shell is one of the leaders in an industry move into offshore Arctic exploration. The company continues to use its extensive experience in Arctic and sub-Arctic environments to prepare for safe activities in Alaska.

Alaska remains an area with high potential for Shell over the long term, and the company is committed to drill there again in the future. If exploration proves successful, resources there would take years to develop.

Shell’s other rig which had been used in their trouble-plagued 2012 season, the Noble Discoverer, is berthed in Seward, Alaska, awaiting arrival of a giant floating, powered dry dock, which will bring it to an Asian ship yard.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, according to my talk with his D.C. staff last week, has moved his Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard hearing or hearings on Shell’s 2012-2013 conduct from March to May, but provided no further detail.

The Department of Interior will be issuing their report on Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic by March 10th.

The U.S. Coast Guard has turned their findings on the Noble Discoverer‘s severe shortcomings over to the U.S. Justice Department, for possible criminal prosecution.

And the blog, Alaska Chinook, is reporting the following:

According to reliable sources, a member of the Alaska delegation may soon be under indictment for back-door pressuring the EPA to allow SHELL to move forward with its 2012 drilling program – which culminated with environmental crimes. When it became known that contaminated engine fuel could not meet the EPA “Air Quality” permitting and such would have caused SHELL to vacate any attempts to continue its 2012 exploration program, a project that has seen a whole lot of discomfort and controversy so far, instead of not backing off and adhering to its permitting criteria, SHELL was given the “Green light” to continue on with its program.

Stormy weather ahead for Shell.

Food Sunday: Trying to Master Sourdough While Contemplating Catastrophic Global Warming

12:26 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Sourdough bread - success!

I.  One of my new year’s resolutions is to become a decent bread baker.  In many ways I’m close to being a gourmet cook, but bread making is something I’ve neglected.

I buy bread at the store.  I’m getting increasingly frustrated, though, at the lack of excellent bakery bread available in stores in southcentral Alaska.  When we travel to Seattle, Portland, Oregon or California, the excellent Italian and French style breads readily available from local bakeries overwhelms me so much, I stuff loaves to bring north into empty coolers that brought seafood down from Alaska.

The kind of bread I crave the most that one cannot get here, is the rustic sourdough loaf, with a crunchy crust, big bubble holes in the bread itself, and a tangy, sourdough taste.  So, I’ve started trying to make that.

In the past, I’ve tried various sourdough starter recipes – some using yeast, some using yoghurt, some just relying on time itself to create a usable, somewhat stable lactobacillus.

In light of the new year’s resolution, I searched the web for the most interesting sourdough starter recipe.  One that seemed quite strange, but fascinating, involved whole wheat flour and pineapple juice.  I decided to try it.  The site that had both that method and good word and video backup is called Breadtopia.

Supposedly, the pineapple juice starter initiator method was created by Debra Wink, back in early 2008.

Breadtopia’s sourdough starter recipe takes a couple days or more longer to get going than many others, but it goes like this:

Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).

Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)

Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.

Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Back in early February, I did just that.  I even juiced my own pineapple for freshness.  The starter evolved just as it was supposed to.  I tried it.

The first time was a failure – the bread did not rise much at all over a twelve-hour period.  It didn’t taste tangy.  I figured the house wasn’t warm enough.

The second time, the bread rose some, but was still brick-like.  It tasted a bit tangy.

The third time, I tried mixing in rye flour.  The bread rose a bit more, and tasted tangier.  I didn’t call it a success, though, just “progress.”  I turned most of the loaf into croutons for a King crab Caesar salad.

The fourth time, shown at the top of the article, was considered a success, by everyone who tasted it, and the loaf disappeared quickly.  I followed this recipe like a fundamentalist Christian might follow the Book of Numbers.

Here’s what the replenished starter looks like today.  Yesterday, shortly after adding flour and water, it brewed over.

Sourdough starter jar

How have you done at sourdough bread making, or at artisan bread baking?
Read the rest of this entry →

U.S. Coast Guard Investigation on Shell Alaska Drilling Rig Turned Over to U.S. Department of Justice

12:08 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Noble Discoverer

Shell Oil’s three main components to their plans to get an Arctic offshore drilling regime going before competitors showed up went off the rails in 2012:

•  The Arctic Challenger, their alleged cleanup rig, spectacularly failed its early September tests in Puget Sound, under idyllic conditions.  It wasn’t even deployed to Alaska, which forced Shell to have to drill shallow holes in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

• The Kulluk, an ungainly rig the size of the aircraft carrier Hornet,that took the Doolittle raid across the Pacific in April 1942, was ground severely on the Kodiak Island area coast for a week, during winter storms.

•  The obsolete and decrepit drill vessel Noble Discoverer had one problem after another, as it was forced beyond its limited capabilities.

2013 promises no changes, as the global giant is reeling from worldwide challenges to its rapacious business model.  Additionally, its failed Alaska offshore season is about to be scrutinized more closely, and more publicly, than British Petroleum was looked at in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In the first of what may become a cascade of U.S. government announcements, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday that they have turned their findings on the drill vessel Noble Discoverer over to the U.S. Justice Department:

The Coast Guard found the Noble Discoverer could not go fast enough to safely maneuver on its own in all the expected conditions found in Alaska’s Arctic waters.

The Coast Guard also found “systematic failure and lack of main engine preventative maintenance,” which caused a propulsion loss and exhaust system explosion.

Among other issues listed were inoperable equipment used to measure the oil in water that is dumped overboard, improper line splices throughout the engine room, piston cooling water contaminated with sludge and an abnormal propeller shaft vibration.

Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said he couldn’t discuss the details because the investigation has been forwarded to the Justice Department. Wadlow declined to say whether the Coast Guard believed criminal penalties could be warranted.

Shell announced early this week that the vessel under investigation is exiting the Western Hemisphere from Seward, Alaska, where it has been impounded since early November, on a dry tow vessel, destined for an Asian shipyard where, supposedly, it will be turned into some sort of perfect, or at least adequate ship, for extricating oil from under the Arctic Ocean’s floor.  There have been no announcements on how the DOJ involvement in the vessel might have an impact on Shell’s tow plan.

Within three weeks, the U.S. Department of Interior will be issuing their 60-day reassessment of Shell’s Arctic drilling plan, which has been somewhat torpedoed by the USCG announcement.  A negative assessment by DOI will set Shell back years, possibly driving their  stock share price into a major dip.

Independent of the findings on the Noble Discoverer, the USCG will be conducting a mandatory set of hearings into the December 31st grounding of the drill rig Kulluk, off the south shores of Kodiak Island.  That seriously damaged vessel is scheduled to be towed by two tugs to Dutch Harbor when harsh winter weather abates.  From there, it will also exit the Western Hemisphere and American scrutiny.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich has vowed to hold hearings on this, but has backed off from holding them in March.  His office told me Wednesday that it is looking more like the hearings will be in May.

I’m surprised that Shell’s Alaska management structure has remained intact though what has to have been the most poorly managed energy project season in our state’s history.  There will probably be a lot of heads rolling there before the end of May, though.

What may be most interesting to watch over the late winter and spring might be the way politicians pile on to Shell, so as to show they “really care” about responsible oil development, etc. – while other oil concerns ramp up their efforts to do their own offshore Arctic projects.

And their political contributions to such politicians.

As a side note:  I’m finding it more and more difficult to write about this and other subjects, here and elsewhere.  I think the evidence of impending catastrophic climate change, combined with the vulnerability of global nuclear waste are far, far more serious than even most environmental progressives yet realize.

Increasingly, I feel there is nothing you, I, or anyone can do to prevent a catastrophe that will reduce the worldwide human population by at least 75% within the next 75 years.

Kulluk and Noble Discoverer to Both Be “Dry Towed” to Asia for Costly Repairs

9:19 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kulluk

Kulluk on the beach

Shell Oil has finally gone public with the story first carried anywhere back in January by firedoglake, that their conical drill rig, Kulluk, will be taken from Kiliuda Bay in Kodiak to Asia for major repairs. Additionally, their powered drill rig, Noble Discoverer, berthed in Seward, Alaska since being impounded by the U.S. Coast Guard in November, will be “dry towed” across the North Pacific to a shipyard in Asia. Their destination is almost certainly South Korea:

Both the much maligned Noble Discoverer and Kulluk, who have faced serious mechanical difficulties since completing Arctic drilling operations off of Alaska’s Arctic Continental Shelf last summer, will be headed to Asia soon according to a statement from Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith.

The Kulluk, which has remained anchored off of Kodiak Island since its New Year’s Eve grounding, will be towed from there to the international Port of Dutch Harbor pending a tow plan approval. From Dutch Harbor, the 266-foot diameter conical drilling unit will then be dry-towed to a ship yard in Asia with a suitable dry dock.

The Discoverer’s operator, Noble Drilling Corp., will also dry-tow the Discoverer from its current location in Seward to South Korea.

“The outcome of further inspections for both rigs will determine the shipyard schedule and timing of their return to service,” Smith said in the statement.

When exactly the rigs will leave Alaska is unclear. A representative from Unified Command, the joint operation involving Shell, U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, could not say whether the vessel remained in Kiliuda Bay Monday. They noted that the latest information on the vessel was on the command’s website — which hasn’t been updated since Jan. 30.

A “dry tow” or “dry-tow” is movement of a vessel on the deck of a large, semi-submersible ship, or powered, floating drydock.

For some reason, the transponders of all the vessels in and around the Kulluk in Kiliuda Bay, were turned off on January 30th and 31st, two days after I announced the contemplated Asia decision, and the same day Dan Joling from the Associated Press picked up the story, so it is difficult to know where the tug Aiviq is right now, for instance.

Lisa Demer, writing on the new development early this morning for the Anchorage Daily News, notes:

It has big vessels for the dry tows lined up, and the Noble Discoverer will leave Seward in three to six weeks for a trip across the Pacific Ocean that should take two to four weeks, Smith said.

In a dry tow, a large vessel submerges through added ballast below the draft of the rig to be towed, Smith explained. That allows the drilling rig to float over the vessel’s deck, and the tow vessel is raised up, with the drill rig on its deck for the tow. It’s a faster method than towing on the water.

There are rumors that Shell is searching the world for replacement vessels, as it appears neither the Kulluk nor the Noble Discoverer will even be reaching a yard before mid to late April.

Investigations into the grounding and Shell’s 2013 Alaska Arctic drilling season by the U.S. Coast Guard; the U.S. Department of the Interior; the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard; and possibly the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, will begin within a few weeks. No precise information on any of these has yet been released, although the Interior Department’s 60-day review period of Shell’s Alaska operations ends on March 7th.

This story may be updated later Tuesday.

Photo by USCG PO 3rd Class Jonathan Klinginberg

Cost to Shell of Kulluk Grounding? $90 Million and Counting ….

1:38 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Shell arctic drilling deployment scheme

Thursday, at Shell Oil’s annual Results Conference in London, Shell CEO Peter Voser delivered a prepared address on the company’s global performance during 2012.  It included little information about the energy giant’s 2012 Alaska Arctic drilling season fiascos we don’t already know:

“Despite making some progress we have run into problems in the last few months. Our rigs will need more work if they are going to be ready for the 2013 drilling season. One, the Noble Discoverer needs a series of upgrades, and the other, the Kulluk, ran aground in a heavy storm on New Year’s Eve and has been damaged.”

After the address, though, Vosser answered questions from the press.  His answers provided some new information.  Questioned on whether or not Shell had decided to move the rigs when they did to avoid paying millions in Alaska taxes, Vosser tried to wriggle out from under previous statements and information available through Shell officials in Alaska:

Tim Webb, the energy editor at The Times in London, asked Voser if Shell was moving the rig from Unalaska to Seattle in order to evade Alaska’s oil and gas property tax.

“Assuming you say that’s true, because I think that came from Shell, would you say that’s an example of Shell not managing risks correctly, or making a poor decision in terms of managing risk in Alaska?”

In response, Voser denied that the decision to move the rig had anything to do with taxes, saying that the $5-6 million they would have had to pay is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

“There was a statement made by a Shell person, but in a completely different context, in a completely different meeting. That was then taken out of that context and then someone made a story out it. Just to be very clear on this one.”

The original story was written by Dutch Harbor Fisherman reporter Jim Paulin. In it, he quoted an email from Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith that was sent before the grounding. Paulin says he stands by his reporting.

“And I don’t think Shell would be backing away from that comment had it not gone aground. I think they would have been sending lobbyists to Juneau to try to repeal that tax. And I think that would be, in my opinion, the motivation for making that comment that it influenced their decision to move it.”

Reporter Paulin’s statement about Shell lobbyists in Juneau is, if anything, understatement.  During the same day Shell CEO Vosser  was delivering his annual report, in Juneau, the oil industry was flexing its muscle as it only can in Alaska.

The 2012 election brought an end to a Senate bipartisan coalition that dated back to shortly after the FBI busted a number of Alaska legislators for taking bribes from the major oil field service company in Alaska, Veco.  Although it was understood at the time that Veco’s bribers were working on behalf of oil giant ConocoPhillips, no employees from the latter were ever indicted by the Justice Department.  The crooked legislators smugly called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club,” and even had baseball caps made with the term plastered across them.

Replacing the bipartisan Senate coalition is a new GOP-run super majority that is intent on ramming through Senate Bill 21, which will repeal the most important element of Alaska’s taxation of oil fields here, and strip billions of dollars per year from state coffers and give it to immensely wealthy oil companies, like ConocoPhillips, British Petroleum and Exxon-Mobil.

Tuesday through Thursday, the Senate Special Committee on TAPS [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System] Throughput held telephonic hearings across the state on SB 21.  About 90% of the testimony was in favor of not implementing SB 21, or of even tweaking our tax rate on the oil industry, which is at the bottom of the middle of the pack worldwide.
Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Administration Quietly Reopens Case That Could Criminalize Peer Review Process

8:52 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Dr. Charles Monnett, in the process of getting peer feedback on his observations that some Polar bears appeared to be dying in the Arctic Ocean, due to stress from long swims between dwindling ice packs, sent emails to scientific colleagues.  He was going through the peer review process, in order to publicize findings in a paper. That was in 2004, through 2006.  The paper was published in 2006.  Information from Monnett’s research found its way into Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

On July 18, 2011, Dr. Monnett was placed on administrative leave from his post at the BOEMRE.  On August 25, 2012, he was returned to work, but with considerably reduced responsibility.  Closely watched.

Today, his legal representatives, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, revealed that the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior quietly reopened their case against Monnett sometime between his reinstatement and December of 2012:

In late December, the IG first revealed that its nearly three-year fruitless pursuit of Dr. Charles Monnett, a senior scientist with the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), had been reopened although its final report was issued last September. The IG has not stated the reasons for the unusual action of reopening a closed case, except to say that it is awaiting BOEM’s response to unspecified new recommendations.

The new open status is slowing the ability of PEER to obtain documents relating to the controversial IG probe under the Freedom of Information Act. Under an appeal, however, PEER managed to obtain the basis for the IG seeking criminal referrals against Dr. Monnett after the IG initially refused to disclose the information. The four separate charges resemble the legal version of “everything but the kitchen sink” –

One rejected charge was false official statements in connection with the peer review process for the publication of a 2006 observational note by the journal Polar Ecology;

Another un-pursued charge was criminal conflict of interest in connection with the award of a joint research contract with the University of Alberta on polar bear transnational migrations; and

Twice, once at the beginning of the investigation and a second time at the end, the IG sought to have Dr. Monnett prosecuted for supposedly unauthorized emails he sent to other researchers in 2007-8. The second time, the IG maintained the emails amounted to theft of government property.

The 2007-2008 email distribution led to protests from Alaska Native and environmental organizations that Shell Oil was not being transparent in their statements and documents pertaining to proposed drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.  One of the scientists Monnett had sent some of the emails to was University of Alaska professor Rick Steiner, who was already in Shell’s crosshairs for attending a conference organized by Bristol Bay area organizations, critical of Shell’s plans to drill in the world’s richest salmon return habitat.  Shell has since withdrawn the Bristol Bay plan.  Steiner was later hounded from his U of A job.

PEER executive director, Jeff Ruch, is concerned that the “theft of government property” charge may pertain, in the reopened investigation, to not only the 2007-2008 emails, that helped shut down Shell operations for almost four years, but to the 2005-2006 emails, which sought peer feedback for a scholarly paper:

This new information underlines how irresponsible and misguided the Inspector General has been in its attempt to ‘get’ a target while trampling over obvious truths.  Especially dangerous is this clumsy attempt to criminalize the academic peer review process. [emphasis added]

Firedoglake‘s coverage of the witch hunt against Shell opponent Dr. Charles Monnett.

Firedoglake‘s coverage of the hounding of Shell opponent Prof. Rick Steiner

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.

Sen. Begich, U.S. House, Interior Department and USCG All to Investigate Shell Alaska and Kulluk Grounding

3:02 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Portrait of Mark Begich

Senator Mark Begich of Alaska announced an investigation into the grounding of the Kulluk.

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D), the Department of the Interior and the United States Coast Guard all announced Tuesday that they will be investigating aspects of the New Years Eve grounding of Shell Alaska’s Arctic oil drilling rig, Kulluk, on an island off of Kodiak.

Last week, Rep. Ed Markey (D – Mass), ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, along with other House Democrats in the House Sustainable Energy and Environment coalition indicated they hope for a House probe:

The coalition is made up of 45 House Democrats.

“The recent grounding of Shell’s Kulluk oil rig amplifies the risks of drilling in the Arctic,” they said in a joint statement. “This is the latest in a series of alarming blunders, including the near-grounding of another of Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs, the 47-year-old Noble Discoverer, in Dutch Harbor and the failure of its blowout containment dome, the Arctic Challenger, in lake-like conditions.”

The coalition believes these “serious incidents” warrant thorough investigation, the statement said.

We’ll see if Markey can get the GOP-controlled HCNR to formally investigate this.  I have my doubts. Alaska Rep. Don Young is a senior GOP member of the committee, and he will do everything he can to keep anything from getting in Shell’s way.  However, Markey, who has let it be known he is considering a run to take Sen. John Kerry’s place in the Senate, will push this hard.

The U.S. Coast Guard investigation of the Kulluk‘s grounding is inevitable.  The announcement today is no surprise:

The Coast Guard has ordered a marine casualty investigation of the Shell Oil-contracted drilling rig Kulluk’s Dec. 31 grounding on Sitkalidak Island, a day after it was safely towed to an anchorage about 30 miles away.

A Tuesday statement says the investigation, ordered by Coast Guard 17th District commander Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, will be led by a Coast Guard investigator. It will receive support and technical advice from the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board.

“In accordance with statute, the formal investigation will probe every aspect of the incident, to include but not limited to the causes of the incident, whether there is evidence that any failure of material was involved or contributed to the incident or whether there is evidence of misconduct, inattention, negligence (or) willful violation of the law,” officials wrote.

We’ll get to hear the crew of the Kulluk and Aiviq testify.  Under oath.

Within the past hour, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it will conduct a review of Shell Alaska:

The Interior Department is launching a “high-level,” 60-day review of Shell’s troubled 2012 attempts to look for oil off Alaska’s northern coast after the company experienced a series of mishaps.

The review arrives a week after Shell’s Kulluk drillship ran aground en route back from the Arctic region, and as Interior is under pressure from green activists to block 2013 drilling off Alaska’s coast.

Sen. Begich issued a press release this morning, which links to the formal letter he has sent to Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil USA and Admiral Robert Papp, Commandant of the USCG.  Begich issued the notice in his capacity as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.  This is from his press release:

Read the rest of this entry →

List of Questions on Shell’s Alaska 2012 Arctic Drilling Fiasco Grows Longer by the Day

2:18 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kulluk aground

Back on July 27th, when I first started covering aspects of Shell Alaska’s plans to begin offshore drilling off our coasts up here, I already had questions.  That day, I wrote, reminiscing about what I knew of the spill response barge Arctic Challenger back in 1982 :

Crew members of towing tugs had been injured over the five years since the barge’s completion, and it was not considered to be a “good luck” barge in fleet scuttlebutt. It never really found a niche after the Sealifts were over.  It languished, being shuttled from Seattle to the Gulf of Mexico to Coos Bay, Oregon, where it stayed for a long time.

The next week I went to Bellingham harbor, where the barge was being outfitted with a new, untried piece of equipment.  Shell didn’t answer my calls for an appointment request, so I showed up at 7:45 am at the security office, and managed to get inside two layers of security before a gatekeeper decided I had the look of somebody who might be asking too many questions.  He was right.

Shell refused to let me photograph or even view the work being done on the Challenger and its containment dome apparatus.  Instead:

[The project director] flatly told me “No,” and I was not allowed to take any photographs of the vessel.  He assured me that Shell Oil will be contacting me soon with more information.

The ambience of the work place there reminded me very much of projects in the past where I have worked that are seriously behind schedule and nervous of potential outcomes.

I was followed by private police until I left Bellingham.

Although Shell wasn’t ready to share their work with me, it proved impossible to hide either the vessel’s dismal history or its shortcomings from the public.  Longtime Alaska reporter, Alex De Marban, wrote in mid-August, that in 2007, while rusting away in Long Beach, California harbor, the Arctic Challenger attracted so many birds, it was temporarily declared a “bird sanctuary” for Caspian terns:

At one point, hundreds of Caspian terns, gulls, cormorants, pelicans, ravens, crows and even an owl turned the 300-foot barge into a giant’s bird nest, coating the deck with bird dung and other gunk. That was in California’s Long Beach Harbor in 2007, where the downtrodden vessel became a bit of a media celebrity as wildlife regulators raced to save the protected terns and their chicks.

De Marban didn’t have many questions in mid-August, but he noted that others did: Read the rest of this entry →