Accident on Gazprom Neft drilling platform GSP Saturn in Arctic waters

Feature story - 12 November, 2014
According to several media reports, the Gazprom-Neft commissioned drilling rig GSP Saturn was damaged during a violent storm while being towed to Murmansk on Saturday November 8.

Gazprom Oil Rig Blockade in the Netherlands © Greenpeace / Bas Beentjes

Storm waves blew a lifeboat off the platform and damaged the helipad, the entire crew of 46 were evacuated. The GSP Saturn had just completed the construction of wells in the Pechora Sea. In 2011 there was an accident with another Gazprom commissioned drilling platform, the Kolskaya rig, also a jack up floating drilling platform similar in design to the GSP Saturn. It capsized and sank on December 18 in the Sea of Okhotsk, while being towed during rough weather. There were 67 people onboard at the time of the accident, 53 of them died.

"The time window for drilling in the offshore Arctic areas is very short. As a result companies end up towing drilling platforms during seasons with severe weather.’ - Comments Julia Pronina, Greenpeace Russia Arctic Campaigner. ‘The conditions in Arctic waters are dangerous and unpredictable. There are safer alternatives to offshore Arctic oil in the form of energy-saving technologies, meanwhile this dangerous drilling is risking people’s lives and threatening the Arctic environment. This accident shows that offshore Arctic drilling is simply not safe and not smart.’

A similar incident also occurred with Shell’s drilling platform Kuluk, which was hit with a storm in the Gulf of Alaska in 2013, during which the platform broke away from a tugboat, was left to drift and eventually ran aground. A safety ladder was blown off Gazprom’s Arctic oil drilling platform Prirazlomnaya during a summer storm shortly after its installation in the Pechora Sea, the ladder is vital for evacuation of personnel.

In May 2014 a group of 30 Greenpeace activists in the Dutch port of IJmuiden occupied the GSP Saturn, a rig contracted by Russia’s state owned energy company Gazprom on its way to the remote Pechora sea. 

 The GSP Saturn was built in 1988 and relies on a pin-and-hole system to raise itself on its legs, this system is known for only being reliable during relatively calm weather. A similar jack up system called ‘jack-and-pinion’ failed to operate during the Kolskaya tragedy due in part to ice and storm conditions.  The GSP Saturn normally operates in warm weather conditions, it was not specially built for Arctic operations.