Sunday, December 30, 2012

Keeping Updated on Shell's Abandoned Drill Rig Kulluk During the Upcoming Storm

USCG helicopter enabling crew to abandon drill rig Kulluk south of Kodiak (click to enlarge)
Although currently back under tow from the vessels Aiviq and Nanuq, Shell Oil's Arctic drilling rig Kulluk has been abandoned.  The U.S. Coast Guard, very riskily removed 17 crew members from the vessel late yesterday, with a Kodiak-based rescue helicopter.  Should the drill rig again part its lines, particularly during a new storm set to arrive in the vicinity of this unfolding drama early Tuesday, a crew would have to be inserted back on to the abandoned, unmotorized vessel, in order to winch the new line into place.  The new insertion would be unusually dangerous, and might prove to injure far more than the two already hurt in this unnecessary and almost farcical clusterfuck.

Shell, or rather the hastily convened "Unified Command" gave a press conference Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm Alaska time, in what they are calling the "Joint Information Center."  Reporters Lisa Demer from the Anchorage Daily News and Rachel d'Oro from the Associated Press attended it.  I attended telephonically, and posted running commentary on it at firedoglake.  Here's my synopsis of the conference:
What I got out of this press conference was:

1). Aiviq and Kulluk walked into this storm blithely.  
2). At least two people have been injured.  
3). USCG does not want to talk about why their cutter left the scene early Saturday.  
4). Shell is backing off from earlier descriptions of the multiple simultaneous engine failures on the Aiviq being caused by fuel contamination. No mention in the presser of the USCG offloading “900 pounds” worth of new fuel injectors onto drifting Aiviq for those engines Saturday. This may be more important than is readily apparent.  
5). There is nobody aboard the drill rig.  
Should Tuesday’s storm part the lines again, like Friday’s did, it will be extremely dangerous to get anyone back aboard. Pumps are on automatic, but to re-hook for a tow, winches would have to be manned on the rig.  
No wonder they are putting as many miles as possible between them and the rocky coast of Kodiak Island eh?
I'm keeping track of developments as best possible.  I expect the rig and tugs will successfully weather the storm, but Shell's bad luck in the 2012 drilling season only seems to get worse.

Time for a lot of heads to roll.

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