|Noble Discoverer in better days|
While its companion drilling rig, Kulluk, lies wallowing in the rocky surf off the southern coast of the Kodiak Island group, the Shell Alaska drilling rig Noble Discoverer lies impounded about 300 miles to the northeast, in Seward Harbor. It pulled in to Seward in late November, with propulsion problems. When the U. S. Coast Guard came aboard, things took a turn for the worse:
[T]he U.S. Coast Guard has launched a criminal investigation into the activities of a 572-foot oil drilling and exploration ship run by the Noble corporation, a group contracted by Royal Dutch Shell to search for oil in the arctic. Noble owned the Kulluk drilling rig that ran aground in rough Alaskan seas.
The revelation that another Noble ship working for Shell may have been operating with serious safety and pollution control problems bolstered allegations from environmental activists that the oil industry is unable to conduct safe oil drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean.
The Coast Guard conducted a routine marine safety inspection when Noble's Discoverer arrived at a Seward, Alaska port in late November. The inspection team found serious issues with the ship's safety management system and pollution control systems. The inspectors also listed more than a dozen "discrepancies" which, sources tell CBS News, led them to call in the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) to determine if there were violations of federal law.
Sources told CBS News that when criminal investigators arrived, the Noble Discoverer's crew had been provided with lawyers and declined to be interviewed.As pointed out by retired University of Alaska Prof. Rick Steiner, in my interview with him yesterday for firedoglake, the is reason to doubt Shell will be able to drill in the Alaska Arctic at all during 2013:
Phil Munger: In light of the revelation in the Alaska Dispatch today that Shell was indeed in a hurry to get out of Dodge – eh, Dutch – before New Years to avoid $6 million in taxes, do you have anything to add?
Rick Steiner: I say, great job by the Dispatch reporters on this!
Here again, is perfect evidence that Shell is putting profits over responsible conduct. We have seen this so much in Alaska oil industry and government we are almost desensitized to it.
This entire affair means that we take a “time-out” for 2013…even if the Kulluk (which apparently translates to “Thunder”) can be pulled off, it is almost certainly out of commission for 2013. That means not only that their 2013 Beaufort drilling is done, but also their Chukchi as they need the Beaufort rig as a potential relief rig for the Chukchi.Anyone convinced that Shell Alaska's performance here during the 2013 season shows the company ready to pursue more dangerous enterprises, like dealing with billions of gallons of crude oil off of and on our fragile Arctic coasts, needs to pursue another line of work.