Shell rigs poised to drill in Chukchi prospects

Photo/Don Ryan/AP

Shell’s two drilling vessels are in the Chukchi Sea and ready to drill, Shell and federal agency sources said July 29. Meanwhile, environmental groups are staging their usual stunts in Portland, Ore., where a Shell-leased ice management vessel was sent for repairs.

Shell spokeswoman Meg Baldino said July 29 that both drill vessels are in the Chukchi Sea and that the semi-submersible Polar Pioneer is now connected to its anchor chains at the “Burger J” well location with preparations to drill underway. Meanwhile, the Noble Discoverer, a drillship, is moored at the Burger V well location.

A bulletin issued July 28 by the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Enforcement, or BSEE, confirmed the status of the two drillships.

“Shell currently has multiple support vessels at the Burger Prospect in the Chukchi Sea and others staged nearby or in transit in preparation for drilling activities,” BSEE said in its update. “The ice management vessel Fennica is being repaired in Oregon.”

The Fennica, which is also carrying a “capping stack” needed to control an undersea blowout, was damaged by an uncharted shoal while leaving Dutch Harbor July 3 and has been sent to a Vigor Industries shipyard in Portland for repairs.

BSEE has given Shell permission to drill “top holes,” at Burger, or the upper parts of wells that do not penetrate potential oil-bearing formations, until the Fennica gets to the Arctic with the capping stack after its repairs.

Shell must also drill just one well at a time, although the second drillship can be kept nearby and ready to drill when the first vessel finishes a well. Federal rules prohibit simultaneous drilling by vessels within 15 miles, and Shell’s planned well locations, for this year, are nine miles apart.

Baldino said weather conditions in the drilling area were moderate with some slush ice, but no heavy ice. Shell has been given permission to operate until near the end of the open-water season in the Chukchi, which means it will be able to conduct drilling through August and possibly into September depending on conditions.

In Portland, the Associated Press reported that Greenpeace USA activists have rappelled off the city’s tallest bridge and are now dangling in midair in an attempt to block the ice management vessel Fennica from leaving after its repairs are complete.

Greenpeace USA director Annie Leonard said the protesters have enough water and food to last for several days and can hoist themselves to allow other marine traffic to pass.

Thirteen protesters were dangling from St. Johns Bridge while 13 more were on the bridge itself serving as lookouts, the Associated Press reported.

Shell, which won a court injunction barring Greenpeace USA activists from interfering with its rigs and support vessels, stated in a July court filing that it intends to file a motion seeking a contempt order against the activist group from repeatedly violating the injunction.

Shell is also seeking reimbursement for attorney fees from Greenpeace related to its responses to several stay motions seeking to lift the injunction, arguing that the group filed them in bad faith with the intention to violate the injunction if it wasn’t granted a stay.

11/20/2016 - 2:52pm