Shell oil rig grounding highlights risk of Arctic drilling: Greenpeace

Press release - 6 January, 2013
Washington DC, January 7th, 2013 – Greenpeace is monitoring Shell’s stranded oil rig after it ran aground and suffered serious damage in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Kulluk ran aground late on December 31st off the island of Sitkalidak after repeatedly breaking its towing lines in heavy seas and storm-force winds. Media reports suggest that Shell was rushing the rig out of Alaska to avoid a US$6m local property tax which would have been imposed on January 1st.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Dan Howells said:

“Shell’s US$4.5bn Arctic gamble is looking like a serious mistake, and should act as a warning to other companies looking to drill in this incredibly hostile environment.”

“Oil companies cannot operate safely in the pristine Arctic, where both the risks and the impacts of any industrial accident are too great to bear.”

Greenpeace has sent several rapid response teams to Alaska to monitor the situation.

Shell officials have revealed that the Kulluk suffered serious damage. Emergency and regular generators have been damaged, while sea water has seeped into the rig itself after waves pounded the ageing drill rig.

The Kulluk ran aground near the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge, where any spill would have terrible impacts on local wildlife. The area is home to at least two endangered species, as well as harbor seals, salmon and sea lions.

Over two million people, including tens of thousands of Australians, have already joined the Greenpeace campaign to protect the Arctic from destructive industry.


Notes to editor:

There are approximately 143,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of hydraulic oil on board the Kulluk, an aging drill rig built in 1983. Weighing almost 28,000 tonnes, the rig had been due for scrapping before Shell bought it in 2005 and the company has since spent $292 million to upgrade the vessel.

The Kulluk incident is the latest in a series of blunders that Shell has committed in relation to its Arctic drilling program:

  • In July: Shell admits that it can’t meet US government air pollution targets for its Arctic drilling fleet, and asks for an exemption. (more).
  • Also in July, Shell’s other drilling vessel Noble Discoverer slips anchor and runs aground in Dutch Harbor, Alaska (more).
  • In August: the Arctic Challenger, a barge built by Shell to contain oil spilled during any accidents in the Arctic, is cited by Federal authorities for four illegal discharges of hydraulic fluid during preparation work for the summer drilling season. More here.
  • In November the Noble Discoverer engine catches fire in the port of Dutch Harbour, Alaska - more here.
  • In early December FOIAs reveal that Shell’s sub-sea capping stack was “crushed like a beer can” during testing - more here.

For interviews, images or more information, contact:

Greenpeace Media Advisor Elsa Evers 0438 204 041

Travis Nichols, GPUS media officer / +1 (206) 802-8498

Images are available here.