Posted by: coastlinesproject | January 5, 2013

Alaskan Oil rig

Oil Rig Aground off Alaska Is Damaged but Not Leaking, Shell and Coast Guard Say


Published: January 3, 2013
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<nyt_text><nyt_correction_top>A Shell Oil drilling rig that ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska has incurred water damage to its deck and electrical systems but is otherwise stable, officials with the response team handling the accident said Thursday.

The Coast Guard and company officials said there was no sign that any of the roughly 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants aboard the vessel had leaked or of other environmental damage caused by the rig, the Kulluk.

“Today we can confirm that the Kulluk remains upright and stable and there is no evidence of sheen in the vicinity,” said Sean Churchfield, the operations manager for Shell Alaska and a member of the response team.

Mr. Churchfield said salvage experts, who have been airlifted to the Kulluk by Coast Guard helicopters, were still assessing the damage. Plans for recovering the rig are being developed, he said, but the electrical damage means that salvage teams would have to bring new generators to the rig or work without power.

The Kulluk ran aground on Monday about 40 miles south of Kodiak, Alaska, on Sitkalidak Island, which is uninhabited. The 18-member crew had been safely evacuated several days earlier, after the rig first became detached from its tow ship when the ship’s engines failed. The Kulluk was being towed to Seattle for maintenance after drilling a test well in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s North Slope.

The area where the grounding occurred, on the island’s southeast coast, includes a narrow strip of beach consisting of cobbles, sand and gravel. Above the beach is a rocky bluff about 200 feet high, officials said.

The Kulluk was built in 1983 but was upgraded in recent years by Shell at a cost of nearly $300 million. A naval designer familiar with the rig said that it was built to withstand potentially crushing ice pressures.

“It’s battleship-stout,” said the designer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the subject. He said the thick steel hull would be difficult to damage.

The episode and others, including the near-grounding of a drill ship in the Aleutian Islands in July, have raised questions about Shell’s plan to produce oil in Arctic waters, one of the last untapped oil regions in the United States.

In Washington on Thursday, a group of Democratic congressmen called on the Department of the Interior to investigate the events. The grounding “is the latest in a series of alarming blunders,” the group, the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition said, adding that it “amplifies the risks of drilling in the Arctic.”

Read more in; Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Just Seconds From the Ocean; Coastal Living in the wake of Katrina and Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.


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