Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 01/4/2013 2:10 PM | Comments: 0
There’s at least a tiny bit of good news in the grounding of an oil rig in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska: As of Wednesday, the Kulluk, which ran aground near Kodiak Island, didn’t appear to be leaking fuel, thanks to its double hull of three-inch-thick steel. We’ve learned some things about oil and safety since the Exxon Valdez.
But the overwhelming lesson of the Kulluk, which broke free of boats trying to tow it to Seattle after its first season in the Beaufort Sea, is that for all the precautions taken by Royal Dutch Shell, neither the company’s executives nor federal regulators were fully prepared for the hazardous conditions in the Arctic.
The rig, which has no propulsion system of its own, was being towed for maintenance before beginning its next season of drilling in the spring. That’s supposed to be the routine: a spring-summer drilling season that ends Oct. 31, with the rig then towed to milder climates for the winter. But there were delays because of weather and equipment problems, including a lack of de-icing capability on the helicopters that were supposed to transport most of the crew off the rig before it could be moved. As a result, the towing didn’t begin until the difficult days of winter.
It’s the most recent in a long list of problems that Shell has encountered. Its failure to build an Arctic-worthy containment dome and spill-response barge kept it from drilling this year to depths where it might reach oil. In November, the U.S. Coast Guard found serious deficiencies involving pollution controls and crew safety in the Noble Discoverer, the drilling ship Shell used in the Chukchi Sea.
At least the Noble Discoverer was gone from the Chukchi by that time, because the drilling season there ends Sept. 24, before ice, high seas and storms have a greater chance of imperiling operations. At a minimum, taking into account the problems the Kulluk encountered in late October, federal regulators should consider a similar date for the Beaufort Sea.
But that would only begin to address the issues. The grounding of the Kulluk occurred within 80 kilometres of a major Coast Guard facility, allowing for a quick response. But what if the same problems had been encountered 1,200 kilometres away? In just the first season of Royal Shell’s Arctic operations, the region already has proved to be a far more perilous place for oil exploration than proponents foresaw. The rigs probably should not head back to the Arctic seas this spring; federal regulators will be endangering a valuable and fragile environmental resource if they don’t reexamine what’s needed to drill safely under the most challenging conditions.
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Community discusses Kapyong urban reserve plan
A delegate situation
Wilco, Arlo Guthrie to perform at 2015 Winnipeg Folk Festival
Gushue, Jacobs to clash in Brier playoff game
Harrison Ford survives crash-landing on golf course
RCMP warn public about "white money" scam
Convicted sex offender sentenced to 7 years for attacking neighbour
Hillary Clinton email trove reviewed for release, security
Life sentence is just that under bill
Canadian Ebola vaccine being put to the test
Envelopes with powder found at ministers' offices
Ashton says he can unite the party against Pallister’s PCs
Man admits to attacks, including sexually assaulting family member
Playoffs unlikely for Manitoba at Brier
New trial ordered for man convicted of 1984 killing of Winnipeg teen
Angry blasts at Prentice for blaming Albertans
Crave TV orders up first original series: Letterkenny
$500,000 a good investment
Canadian pastor detained in North Korea
Plane crashes on LA golf course; pilot critically injured
Birth most common reason for hospitalization in Manitoba: study
Clinton email policy violated Obama administration guidance
Alberta plans huge lease sale on caribou range
Death toll in east Ukraine mine blast reaches 33
Ferguson exposes police prejudice everywhere
Seething comedian fuels up on stupidity for volcanic eruptions
No word yet from Jets on Byfuglien's condition
CEO Sleepout raises $200K, enough to support 50 jobs for homeless
Plane skids off runway at LaGuardia, crashes through fence
Can you hear me now?
Ottawa, province contribute $1.5M to farm-safety projects
Vancouver port fire out; investigation begins
TSN tweet shows social media no Wild West: experts
Fight consensual, not assault: judge
No, really, it will get warm soon
Turmoil on the menu
Chip off the old Rock
Mourners bid goodbye to Froese boys