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July 20, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 48July 2012

Coast Guard confirms Shell certification change accepted

On July 13 the U.S. Coast Guard accepted Shell’s proposal to certify the Arctic Challenger oil containment barge under the standard for a mobile offshore drilling unit, Cmdr. Christopher O’Neil of the U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed in an email to Petroleum News. The original proposal, agreed in December, was to certify the vessel under the standard for a floating production installation, but in early July Shell requested that a different certification standard be applied.

However, with construction on the vessel not yet complete, the Coast Guard cannot yet certify the vessel for safe operation under the agreed standard, O’Neil wrote.

“Major safety and operational systems are still being installed, tested and certified, and required tests such as an inclining experiment have not yet been performed by the shipyard,” O’Neil wrote. “As construction items and plans are completed by Shell and the shipyard, the Coast Guard and ABS (the American Bureau of Shipping) have inspectors standing by to review and inspect them.”

O’Neil said that major safety systems such as the primary and emergency power; and fire detection and extinguishing systems have not yet been completed. Coast guard inspectors have been working closely with the shipyard — for certification the Coast Guard must confirm that the vessel provides for the safety of crew and workers on board in the conditions anticipated in the area of operations, O’Neil wrote. And the Coast Guard has not yet determined whether the Arctic Challenger can comply with the mobile offshore drilling unit standard, he wrote.

Shell plans to station the Arctic Challenger around midway between its Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea drilling operations, ready to swing into action in the unlikely event of a well blowout. The vessel needs to be certified before the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will issue Shell’s drilling permits.

—Alan Bailey

See story in July 29 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, July 27, at www.PetroleumNews.com

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