By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Chris Sorensen on Royal Dutch Shell and the hunt for black gold in the Arctic
Royal Dutch Shell’s efforts to drill for offshore oil in the Arctic, one of the harshest environments on Earth, have so far been a lesson in humility. Last season’s drilling program was marred by numerous delays, equipment failures and a towing mishap that left the company’s $290-million Kulluk drill rig grounded off the coast of Alaska during a fierce storm.
The oil giant’s $5-billion Arctic program was unceremoniously suspended in February before a single offshore well was completed (Shell had planned to drill as many as 10 wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas over the next few years, but was only able to start two). Adding insult to injury, Shell was publicly criticized by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which demanded a detailed plan to address issues ranging from logistics to oversight of contractors before any further drilling would be allowed to go ahead. “Shell screwed up in 2012,” Ken Salazar, the recently resigned Secretary of the Interior, was quoted as saying. Undeterred, Shell recently signed a memorandum with Russia’s Gazprom that includes offshore exploration in Russia’s Arctic shelf.
With an estimated 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 per cent of its undiscovered oil, the Arctic, and Shell’s struggles there, highlight both the risks and rewards oil companies face in a world where most easy-to-access hydrocarbons have already been tapped. But some of the dangers could soon be ameliorated as the industry races to minimize the use of vulnerable floating platforms, and focuses instead on equipment that can be bolted directly to the sea floor, where it’s relatively protected from ice and violent weather. “Our vision of the future is that a lot of things you now see on platforms and oil rigs can be moved to the sea floor—the processing, separation and boosting,” says Patrick Kimball, a spokesperson for Houston-based FMC Technologies, one of several oil-services companies leading the charge into the deep. “When there’s ice covering the surface six months of the year, this approach offers advantages because everything’s on the sea floor and monitored with remotely operated vehicles,” Kimball says.
By The Associated Press - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 5:18 AM - 0 Comments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A Shell oil-drilling ship that ran aground near a remote Alaska…
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A Shell oil-drilling ship that ran aground near a remote Alaska island has been refloated, officials said early Monday.
Royal Dutch Shell’s Kulluk was floated from the rocks late Sunday night and teams were assessing its condition, the Unified Command said.
Once they’re satisfied that the vessel is seaworthy, it will be towed 30 miles to shelter in Kodiak Island’s Kiliuda Bay.
The oil drilling vessel, which has no engines of its own, was being towed for maintenance when it ran aground during a powerful storm on New Year’s Eve.
Officials said that so far there’s no sign the hull of the Kulluk has been breached or that oil has spilled from the vessel. It is carrying more than 140,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.
By Dan Joling, The Associated Press - Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 6:27 AM - 0 Comments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Royal Dutch Shell PLC will try to move its grounded drill…
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Royal Dutch Shell PLC will try to move its grounded drill ship out of the worst of the North Pacific’s fury with a towing attempt when conditions allow.
Shell incident commander Sean Churchfield said at a news conference Saturday that naval architects have pronounced the Kulluk fit to be towed. The attempt will depend on weather, tides and readiness, he said.
“I can’t offer you firm times. Right now, the preparation for the tow depends on the weather and operational constraints,” Churchfield said. “We will be looking to move the vessel as soon as we are ready and able.”
If the drill ship can be pulled from the rocks off Sitkalidak Island, it will be towed 30 miles (48 kilometres) to shelter in Kodiak Island’s Kiliuda Bay, a cove about 43 miles (69 kilometres) southeast of the city of Kodiak.
By The Associated Press - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 5:58 AM - 0 Comments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The grounding of a petroleum drilling ship on a remote Alaska…
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The grounding of a petroleum drilling ship on a remote Alaska island has refuelled the debate over oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where critics for years have said the conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow dangerous industrial development.
The drilling sites are 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) from Coast Guard resources, and environmentalists argue offshore drilling in the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem is too risky. So when a Royal Dutch Shell PLC ship went aground on New Year’s Eve on an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, they pounced — saying the incident foreshadowed what will happen north of the Bering Strait if drilling is allowed.
For oil giant Shell, which leads the way in drilling in the frontier waters of the U.S Arctic, a spokesman said the grounding will be a learning experience in the company’s years long effort to draw oil from beneath the ocean floor, which it maintains it can do safely. Though no wells exist there yet, Shell has invested billions of dollars gearing up for drilling in the Beaufort and the Chukchi seas, off Alaska’s north and northwest coast.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 6:54 AM - 0 Comments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s foray into Arctic offshore drilling has suffered…
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s foray into Arctic offshore drilling has suffered a serious setback after one of its two Alaskan drilling rigs ran aground off a small island while trying to escape a fierce storm.
The Kulluk drilling ship grounded Monday night on rocks off the southeast side of Sitkalidak, an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, according to officials at a command centre run by the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell and Alaskan state emergency workers.
The Kulluk was being towed by a 360-foot anchor handler, the Aiviq, and a tugboat, the Alert. The vessels were moving north along Kodiak Island, trying to escape the worst of a North Pacific storm that included winds near 70 mph (113 kph) and ocean swells to 35 feet (11 metres).