Royal Dutch Shell, the global energy giant, has already invested more than $4 billion in its Arctic drilling venture, but that was apparently not enough to purchase proper mooring in Alaska‘s Dutch Harbor and avoid a subsequent public relations mess.

Precisely what happened is still being sorted out. Official accounts had the Noble Discoverer, one of two massive drilling rigs that Shell had parked midway up the Aleutian Island chain, dragging anchor in stiff winds over the weekend before coming to a halt 100 yards offshore.

Locals, including a shutterbug harbor captain, disputed that scenario and lit up Twitter and Facebook with photographs showing the rig all but on the beach.

“There’s no question it hit the beach,” Kristjan Laxfoss, the harbor captain, told The Associated Press on Sunday. “That ship was not coming any closer. It was on the beach.”

Judge for yourself: 

Whatever the reality, and while Shell plans to send divers down later this week to inspect the hull, no damage to the rig has yet been reported, and the incident appears to have had no environmental impact.

But for a company embarking on what is arguably among the most watched and most contentious oil and gas ventures in recent memory, the image of shore-based personnel scurrying toward a drifting and uncontrolled rig is embarrassing at best, and inauspicious at worst.

It is also a chilling reminder that, despite the most careful planning, things can go awry.

“Our goal remains flawless operations,” the company declared in a statement posted to its website. “Even a ‘near miss’ is unacceptable. While an internal investigation will determine why the Discoverer slipped anchor, we are pleased with the speed and effectiveness of the mitigation measures we had in place.”

Opponents of Arctic drilling were unmoved. “For us,” said Travis Nichols, a spokesman for Greenpeace, “it’s a clear warning sign that Shell isn’t prepared to go up there.”

“Up there” is the unforgiving Chuchki and Beaufort seas, still more than 1,000 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor, along Alaska’s northern coast. That’s where the Noble Discoverer and its sister rig, the Kulluk — along with dozens of support vessels — aim to soon hunker down, between 20 and 70 miles offshore, where they will begin poking exploratory holes in the seabed in the hope of finding oil.

With visions of oil-soaked beaches and BP’s flaming Deepwater Horizon rig still fresh in the minds of many Americans — as are more than two decades of environmental impacts arising form the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound — opposition to Shell’s Arctic ambitions has been fierce. In response, the company has pulled out all the stops in touting its experience in northern waters, including exploration wells it plumbed in the Chuchki and Beaufort the 1980s and ’90s, before low oil prices prompted it to focus on the Gulf.

Shell has also argued that, unlike BP’s operation in the Gulf of Mexico, which was groping in waters nearly a mile deep and drilling to depths of 18,000 feet, the Beaufort and Chuchki operations will be working in comparative shallows of 140 feet or so, and drilling to roughly 10,000 feet or less. Well pressures in the Arctic are also expected to be far lower, the company has said, making the sort of wild, unchecked gusher that BP experienced unlikely.

Read the rest of this News Story:-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-zeller-jr/shell-arctic-drilling_b_1679697.html?utm_campaign=071712&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-green&utm_content=FullStory

 

Advertisements