At 5 p.m. yesterday evening the semi-submersible rig Transocean Polar Pioneer started drilling in the Chukchi Sea as part of Shell's 2015 Chukchi drilling program, company spokeswoman Megan Baldino has told Petroleum News by email.
"We remain committed to operating safely and responsibly and adding to Shell's long history of exploration offshore Alaska," Baldino said.
Shell is drilling in the Burger prospect, about 70 miles northwest of the Chukchi coastal village of Wainwright.
Meantime, the icebreaker M/V Fennica has departed Portland, Oregon, en route for the Chukchi, having been repaired following an incident near Dutch Harbor in which the vessel's hull was gashed by what appears to have been an uncharted subsea shoal. The Fennica is carrying Shell's well capping stack, a piece of equipment that the company will need to have stationed in the Chukchi before the drilling reaches a potential hydrocarbon bearing zone.
Environmental activist organization Greenpeace had attempted to block the departure of the Fennica from Portland by suspending protestors from a bridge across the Willamette River. However, this protest was dispersed following an order from the federal District Court in Alaska, telling Greenpeace that it was in civil contempt of a preliminary injunction banning Greenpeace from interfering with any of the vessels in Shell's drilling fleet.
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in the Aug. 9 issue, available online Friday, Aug. 7 at www.PetroleumNews.com