8 reasons why Shell can’t be trusted in the Arctic

by Cassady Craighill

January 4, 2013

The Shell conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska

Shell’smost recent ‘mishap’a few days ago was not the first setback the oil giant has suffered in its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. In fact, it’s the eighth in a growing list of reasons why Shell should not be trusted in the Arctic.

1. Shell has no idea how much an oil spill clean-up would cost

In March 2012, in response to questions from the UK’s Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, Peter Velez, Shells head of emergency response in the Arcticadmitted that Shell had not assessed the costs of a clean-up operation in the Arctic, leaving shareholders exposed to potentially huge financial losses.

2. Shell’s barge, the Arctic Challenger, was not deemed safe enough by the US government

In July last year the US authorities announced that a key part of Shellsoil spill response fleethadnt been allowed to sail to the Arctic because it did not meet US Coast Guard safety standards. The ship,ArcticChallenger, is a 36-year-old barge used to drag safety equipment through sea ice. But US authorities are not happy with what theyve seen on-board and didnt feel confident theArctic Challengercould withstand the extremely harsh Arctic environment. Originally Shell agreed that the ship would be able to withstand a100-year storm, but company engineers are nowsayingthat it is no longer appropriate for the barge to meet such onerous standards.

3. US Coast Guard “not confident” with Shell’s dispersants in the event of an oil spill

In aninterviewwith Bloomberg the commandant of the US Coast Guard expressed doubts about the impact of dispersants in Alaska in the event of an oil spill, saying – Im not confident what it will do in the colder water up in Alaska. Shell has included dispersant use as a major part of its oil spill response plan for the Arctic.

4. Shell’s drill ship runs aground in a ‘stiff breeze’

On 15 July Shells drill ship, theNoble Discoverer, ran aground in the sheltered and relatively calm Dutch Harbour, Alaska, in a 35mph wind. Both theNoble Discovererand theKullukare ageing, rusty vessels and not the state of the art fleet that Shell has been boasting about. TheKullukhas beenmothballed for the last 13 yearswhilst theFrontier Discovererwas builtin 1966.

5. Shell’s drill ship catches fire

In November the engine of the drill ship, theNoble Discoverer,caught fireas it returned to Dutch Harbour, Alaska, and had to be put out by specialist fire crews.

6. Shell’s capping stack safety system ‘crushed like a beer can’ during testing

In December it was revealed that the oil spill containment system that Shell was supposed to have on-site in the Arctic was badly damaged in September testing. A Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement representative disclosed that the sub-sea capping stack wascrushed like a beer can.

7. Shell’s Alaskan Vice-Presidentadmits: “There will be spills”

In aninterview with the BBC, Pete Slaibyadmits that an oil spill is what people were most concerned about. “If you ask me will there ever be spills, I imagine there will be spills,” he said.

8. Shell’s Arctic oil rig hits the rocks

On 31 December 2012, the oil rig, theKulluk,ran aground off the coast of Alaska while being towed back to harbour in Seattle. It had hit heavy weather in the gulf of Alaska a few days earlier which caused the 400ft towing line to break and the rig to drift free. The tug managed to reconnect with theKullukbut it experienced multipleengine failures 50 miles south of Kodiak Island, causing the rig to drift free onceagainin 35ft seas and winds of 40mph. The rig eventually ran aground on Monday after another attempt to tow it away. TheKullukhas 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of hydraulic oilon boardbut as yet no spills have been observed. Teams on the ground are currently still trying to secure the rig.

Tell President Obama to suspend Shell’s drilling permits now, and lets stop reckless companies like Shell from exploiting this fragile environment.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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