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Vol. 18, No. 4 Week of January 27, 2013
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Response team still reviewing Kulluk damage ahead of move

The Kulluk, Shell’s floating drilling platform, remains at anchor in Kiliuda Bay on Kodiak Island while multiple organizations review data gathered during inspections of the vessel and prepare a damage assessment report. The U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas are all involved in the assessment, the unified command for the Kulluk towing incident reported Jan. 18. The unified command also said that the vessel will not be moved until the assessment report has been completed and a plan for the move evaluated.

The unified command has also come to an agreement with local crab fishermen that the Kulluk will not be moved from Kiliuda Bay during the tanner crab fishing season. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the crab fishery opened on Jan. 16. Mark Stichert, shellfish management biologist with Fish and Game, told Petroleum News Jan. 23 that, depending on the weather, it might take another four or five days for the fishermen to exhaust this year’s crab quota and hence complete the crabbing season in the area where the Kulluk is anchored.

The Kulluk ran aground on the shore of Sitkalidak Island during a severe storm on the evening of Dec. 31 while being towed from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to the U.S. West Coast. The vessel was refloated on Jan. 6 and towed to its sheltered anchorage in Kiliuda Bay on Jan. 7.

Some damage

The unified command says that damage to the Kulluk is “consistent with what is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground.” The Kulluk’s fuel tanks are intact and there has been no reported fuel or oil spill. Some seawater had entered the vessel through damaged hatches, but that water has been captured and stored. Points of water entry such as windows and hatches are being sealed and tow brackets added to the vessel in preparation for the vessel’s next move, unified command said.

Assessment crews have surveyed the location where the Kulluk ran aground. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith confirmed in a Jan. 24 email that all four survivor capsules that had broken loose from the Kulluk have been located. The Native corporation from Old Harbor, the village near the grounding site, has a contract for removing the rescue craft and any other debris, Smith said.

Investigation and review

The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a formal investigation into the grounding of the Kulluk. The grounding has also prompted the U.S. Department of the Interior into conducting an assessment of Shell’s operations in Alaska in 2012, to examine Shell’s safety management systems, the company’s oversight of its contracted services and the company’s ability to meet the required standards for Arctic development.

Gov. Sean Parnell has requested that officials from the State of Alaska be included in Interior’s review. Given the importance of the review to the state, the state administration has also requested Interior to allow the Coast Guard and the North Slope Borough to participate, Parnell said in a Jan. 22 statement.

“We share your commitment to safe and responsible development of energy resources in the Arctic, and agree that these activities are essential to the nation’s energy and economic security,” Parnell said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “The recent events should be looked upon as valuable learning moments to further improve safety in future development.”

Mayor Charlotte Brower of the North Slope Borough also requested the involvement of state and local Alaska officials in the review.

“As residents of the North Slope, no one is more committed to making sure offshore exploration is done safely and responsibly,” Brower said. “All too often there have been discussions and decisions in these matters that are too far removed from the expertise and knowledge of local people. Now, more than ever, our involvement is necessary to ensure that federal reviews and permitting include the voices of those who are the most impacted.”

The mayor’s office said that Brower would be meeting with David Hayes, assistant secretary of the interior, on Jan. 23 and that during that meeting she would raise the question of the involvement of Alaskans in the Interior review.

—Alan Bailey

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