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Posts Tagged ‘Alaska Dispatch’

Shell drops legal attempt to extend offshore lease terms in the Arctic

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Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 10.21.36Shell drops legal attempt to extend offshore lease terms in the Arctic

Author: Yereth Rosen: 24 June 2016

Months after abandoning its plans for oil exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell has dropped its legal effort to hold onto those offshore leases.

Shell notified the Interior Department it will no longer pursue its appeals of a decision that denied extension of the company’s oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska. The department’s Board of Land Appeals on Thursday granted Shell’s request and dismissed the case.

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Should Shell have looked west for its Arctic Ocean fortune?

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That’s the hypothesis of David Houseknecht, one of the region’s foremost geologists and project chief for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Energy Resources Program for Alaska.

Other experts say the idea helps explain why public well results and rock chips have shown a large amount of gas in the reservoir but limited evidence of oil. Unlike Alaska politicians who jumped at the chance to blame federal regulations for Shell’s decision to abandon the Arctic, the scientists say the answer is simply a matter of geology — the oil just wasn’t there in big volumes.  

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Economics, not just regulation, sidelined Shell’s offshore Alaska drilling plans

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Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 08.42.45Dermot ColeDecember 8, 2015

Fresh assertions that the Obama administration smothered Shell’s Arctic dreams followed the news that Statoil gave up on its leases, the second company to abandon plans to look for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Citing market conditions and noting the leases “are no longer considered competitive within Statoil’s global portfolio,” the Norwegian company announced its withdrawal plans Nov. 17. The company had long taken a cautious approach in the region, using Shell as a bellwether. Earlier this year it had scaled back its plans to drill in the Barents Sea because of low oil prices.

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Shell’s Arctic drill rigs make final Alaska stop

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Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 14.03.31Laurel AndrewsOctober 12, 2015

Two weeks after announcing the end of its Arctic offshore oil exploration program, Royal Dutch Shell’s Noble Discoverer drillship left Dutch Harbor Monday afternoon, the last planned stop in Alaska as it heads to the Pacific Northwest.

The company’s second drilling rig that had arrived in Alaska this summer, the Transocean Polar Pioneer, is close behind.

The Noble Discoverer arrived in Dutch Harbor Sunday, said Shell Alaska spokesperson Megan Baldino. During the stop, both rigs had a crew change and resupply of fuel and groceries.

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High winds cause flooding in Barrow, prompts Shell to pause oil drilling

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Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 08.10.57Yereth Rosen and Alex DeMarban: 27 August 2015

Huge, wind-whipped waves crashed onto the shore at Barrow on Thursday, forcing the closure of a nearby road, the National Weather Service reported. Westerly winds were gusting up to 50 miles an hour, pushing waves up to the top of the beach and causing some erosion, the National Weather Service said.

A National Weather Service employee in Barrow captured still images and video of the high waves and flooding.

The service has issued a coastal flood warning for Barrow until Friday morning, along with a high surf advisory for the western part of the North Slope and a gale warning for much of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Seas up to 14 feet were forecast for Thursday in the Chukchi.

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Former BP chief exec warns Shell about Arctic drilling

Former BP chief exec warns Shell about Arctic drilling

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 09.31.18Kamala KelkarAugust 13, 2015

The former chief executive of BP, who headed the company during a spate of nasty disasters including the biggest ever pipeline spill in the North Slope, warned Shell that drilling in the Arctic could hurt its reputation.

Former BP CEO Lord Browne told BBC News that he’s never been a supporter of “right-on-the-margin development” and that Arctic drilling is expensive.

Browne was head of BP in 2006, when the company pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil in Prudhoe Bay resulting in a fine of $25 million. He was also in charge when a Texas City refinery exploded in 2005 and killed 15 people, and during the propane-market-manipulation case that resulted in civil and criminal penalties and a $303 million settlement.

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‘It’s just too big a prize’: Why Shell sticks to Chukchi plans, despite obstacles

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Ann Pickard

Ann Pickard

Alaska Dispatch News: August 5, 2015

Despite tumbling oil prices, rising costs, legal woes, heated political opposition and a series of missteps and misadventures, Royal Dutch Shell is pushing forward with its plan to drill for oil in the offshore regions of Alaska’s remote Chukchi Sea.


In a wide-ranging narrative, Bloomberg Business details the company’s struggles in Alaska’s Arctic waters, and why it decided, after intense deliberation, to continue efforts to develop the Chukchi prospect.

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Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts come under fire in Unalaska

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Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 21.27.36Jim Paulin: Dutch Harbor Fisherman: July 19, 2015

Shell came under criticism at a meeting in Unalaska last week from an unlikely pair, a representative of Greenpeace concerned about global environmental impacts and city official — and pro-developoment booster — Frank Kelty, complaining about local impacts brought by the influx of oil company workers filling up the hotel and displacing birders and other tourists.

“Shell’s taking over the whole place,” said Kelty, referring to the Grand Aleutian Hotel, and citing other impacts. Local residents are having to wait for deliveries from the United Parcel Service, because airplanes are filled up with Shell packages, said Kelty.

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Cold receptions for Shell in Lower 48 ports mean opportunity for Alaska

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Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 18.39.24Frank Murkowski: July 19, 2015

A dynamic event is underway in Arctic Alaska today: one that, if successful, could have a profound effect on our state’s economy. Shell Alaska is preparing to drill for oil this summer in Alaska’s offshore continental shelf. To date, Shell has expended over $7 billion in gearing up for their effort. They anticipate substantially advancing their delineation effort by the end of this year’s drilling season.

A sobering statistic highlights the significance of Shell’s effort: Of the total estimated oil in Alaska, 43.8 billion barrels, 88.9 percent is on federal holdings, and only 11.1 percent is on state-owned lands. In comparison, the rest of the U.S. oil totals 23.7 bb. according to USGS estimates. Alaska must be allowed to access its federal prospects.

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Barrow, a town divided over Shell’s drilling

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Krista Langlois | High Country News: July 19, 2015

BARROW — As Royal Dutch Shell’s massive drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, chugs its way up the Alaska coast, the 4,700 residents of America’s northernmost town was focused on a different event: the annual Nalukataq festival, in which the entire community shares in the bounty of a successful whaling season, with 16 crews landing whales. Nalukataq is a time for celebration, but the national controversy that’s unfolded in recent months surrounding Shell’s plans to drill exploratory wells this summer in the Arctic Ocean loomed over the festival. 

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Shell’s damaged Arctic drilling support vessel will go to Oregon for repair

Shell’s damaged Arctic drilling support vessel will go to Oregon for repair

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Dan Joling | Associated Press: July 13, 2015

Shell oil company will send a damaged ship carrying equipment required for Arctic offshore oil drilling from Alaska back to the West Coast for repairs.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC ‘s drilling schedule for two exploratory wells this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast, however, shouldn’t be delayed by maintenance work on the 380-foot icebreaker Fennica, spokesman Curtis Smith said Monday.

“We do not anticipate any impact to the (drilling) season as we do not require the vessel until August,” Smith said.

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Arctic energy debate can be more than Shell rigs and Greenpeace protests

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Arctic energy debate can be more than Shell rigs and Greenpeace protests

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Victoria Herrmann: June 12, 2015

Today, the phrase “Arctic energy” has become synonymous with snowy oil rigs, icy ocean exploration, and Greenpeace activists. The recent conditional approval of Shell’s plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea has reinforced this narrow delineation of energy debates about the top of the world.

Reflective of how the Lower 48 views the Arctic more generally, northern energy is written as an extractive narrative. From the opening of shipping routes to warnings of climate change consequences, the Arctic is frequently framed and valued by how it can help those living below 66 degrees north.

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Shell financial reports about Arctic drilling are too ‘rosy,’ environmentalists charge

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Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 13.15.58By Yereth Rosen Alaska Dispatch News: April 28, 2015

Shell financial reports about Arctic drilling are too ‘rosy,’ environmentalists charge

Shell has understated the financial risks of exploring for oil in the Arctic Ocean and federal regulators should investigate possible misrepresentations to investors, critics of the drilling plan said Tuesday.

Oceana, an environmental organization, and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School on Monday petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission for an investigation into what the drilling critics call “material misstatements and omissions” in Shell’s financial filings.

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Shell has major hurdles to clear before Chukchi drilling resumes

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 09.08.40Yereth Rosen Alaska Dispatch News: April 4, 2015

Shell has major hurdles to clear before Chukchi drilling resumes

Now that the Department of the Interior has, for the second time, affirmed the record-breaking Chukchi Sea lease sale it held seven years ago, is it smooth sailing for Royal Dutch Shell and its plans to drill this year on leases purchased in the sale?

Not so fast.

Shell, which spent over $2 billion on Chukchi leases, has already spent about $6 billion in total on its Alaska program and has ambitions for transforming the remote and undeveloped waters off Northwest Alaska into a major oil-producing region, still must clear several hurdles before it is given permission to sink a drill bit into hydrocarbons lying beneath the seafloor.

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You are here Stakes are too high with Arctic drilling, and Shell isn’t ready

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 09.25.26From an article by Lois Epstein published 21 Jan 2015 by Alaska Dispatch News


Two years ago on New Year’s Eve, Shell’s Kulluk Arctic offshore drilling rig grounded near Kodiak Island. It was an industrial calamity heard around the world, including a cover story in the Jan. 4 issue of The New York Times magazine.

Between Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling and mobilization problems and the federal government’s difficulties in overseeing Arctic Ocean leasing as discussed below — not to mention the recent dramatic drop in the price of oil — it is becoming increasingly clear that Arctic Ocean drilling faces insurmountable hurdles, especially in 2015.

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Outlook uncertain for Shell’s return to the Chukchi

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By Yereth Rosen: 3 Jan 2015

Six years after dropping more than $2 billion on leases in the remote Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska, Shell has yet to drill into any oil in that icy frontier.

Plans for an audacious offshore Arctic exploration program have been stymied by litigation and adverse court rulings and a string of accidents, mishaps, mistakes and some legal violations.

But the company is seeking to make up for lost time in 2015. After scrapping plans to drill in 2014 — a decision made necessary by a federal appeals court ruling in January that found regulators had failed to properly evaluate environmental impacts of the 2008 leasing — Shell has a new and much more aggressive exploration plan it hopes to make a reality this year.

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Shell’s disastrous tax dodge

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Photo Courtesy Mark Meyer / Greenpeace

Extracts from an article by Jim Paulin, Dutch Harbor Fisherman, published 23 March 2014 by AlaskaDispatch under the headline: Southwest Alaska municipalities want bigger share of oil royalties 

Impacts are already being felt from the arrival of Royal Dutch Shell in Alaska. The arctic-class oil rig Kulluk grounded in the Kodiak archipelago New Year’s Eve, as the rig left on a schedule designed to avoid a potential tax bill of $6 million in Unalaska, raising serious concerns of damage to the environment. None of those fears were realized in that incident, though it clearly showed the potential for harm. The cost to Shell in responding to the near-disaster makes $6 million seem small by comparison. In addition, Alaska’s government says the rig is exempt from local taxes because it wasn’t drilling in state waters, which extend up to three miles from shore. Shell has suspended exploration this year, to give it time to fix its drill rigs.

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Release of Interior’s Arctic standards for offshore oil development delayed

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 09.31.18Arctic-specific standards to guide offshore oil operations — rules crafted in response to Shell’s trouble-plagued 2012 drilling season — will be issued later than expected, the head of a key federal agency said on Wednesday.

Tick tock: Kulluk’s countdown to disaster unveiled

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Yereth RosenNovember 20, 2013

Arctic-specific standards to guide offshore oil operations — rules crafted in response to Shell’s trouble-plagued 2012 drilling season — will be issued later than expected, the head of a key federal agency said on Wednesday.

A draft version of the new standards, initially expected by the end of the year, is now expected in early 2014, said Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and acting assistant Interior secretary for lands and minerals.

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Shell pulls back on Arctic drilling near Russia’s Sakhalin Island

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Alaska Dispatch: October 18, 2013

An environmental group opposed to drilling in the sub-Arctic says that Sakhalin Energy has pulled back on plans for two new oil drilling platforms off Sakhalin Island. Pacific Environment says Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom decided not to move ahead with a new mobile platform in 2014 and delayed a decision on a permanent platform until 2017. Pacific Environment says that the platforms would threaten the survival of the Western Gray Whale, of which there are only about 150 alive.

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Shell’s spill-response training in remote Alaska villages a first step for new company

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 20.09.51Federal regulators allowed the company to start drilling in two locations, but made it stop short of going deep enough to reach oil or gas, because all the spill-prevention equipment the company had promised wasn’t yet on site. But after the floating drill rig Kulluk snapped free of its tow and grounded in a New Year’s Eve storm in the Gulf of Alaska enroute to Seattle, Shell put Arctic drilling on hold for the summer season of 2013. With its drill rigs sent to Asia for repairs, Shell hasn’t said if, or when, it’s coming back to finish the job. Shell has already spent more than $5 billion on its endeavor.

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Alex DeMarban: October 12, 2013

An impoverished group of Northwest Alaska villages whose residents hunt walrus and seals to survive have banded together to form a corporation to capitalize on an economic boom on the U.S. side of the Arctic, should that day ever come.Most importantly, the fledgling Bering Sea Alliance wants villagers involved in whatever development occurs so it’s done responsibly. That includes being trained to respond to a spill, an increasing possibility with growing numbers of freighters steaming through the 50-mile-wide Bering Strait [3], gateway to the Arctic Ocean that the seven villages call home.”We wanted to leave nothing to chance as it related to the resources our villages depend on,” said Art Ivanoff of Unalakleet, the company’s chief executive and its only employee at the moment. “It’s marine life that sustains our villages and we’re trying to find a way to have the tools in the toolbox to respond to an incident if one were to occur.”

Hazardous materials workshop

The alliance has been pushing aggressively to let oil companies as well as state and federal agencies know it’s available to provide such things as emergency response services or manpower for a cleanup, he said.The group’s efforts will bear their first fruit early next week. Royal Dutch Shell agreed to sponsor a hazardous materials training workshop in Wales for 12 to 24 residents living in that village at the tip of the Bering Strait [4], said Ivanoff.The Netherlands-based oil giant is also interested in providing the training in the six other villages that, along with Wales, launched the alliance in August, Ivanoff said.Shell’s decision to pay for the three-day training could be a hopeful sign for Alaskans worried that the company will abandon the exploratory drilling they started in summer 2012, when Shell became the first company in two decades to punch into the U.S. Arctic Ocean seafloor.Federal regulators allowed the company to start drilling in two locations, but made it stop short of going deep enough to reach oil or gas, because all the spill-prevention equipment the company had promised wasn’t yet on site.But after the floating drill rig Kulluk snapped free of its tow and grounded in a New Year’s Eve storm in the Gulf of Alaska enroute to Seattle [5], Shell put Arctic drilling on hold for the summer season of 2013. With its drill rigs sent to Asia for repairs, Shell hasn’t said if, or when, it’s coming back to finish the job.

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Listening sessions start process for Alaska-focused Arctic drilling rules

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 20.09.51Looking for lessons in Shell’s disastrous campaign to drill offshore in the Arctic, the Interior Department on Thursday launched an effort to create special rules for oil and gas activity in federal waters off Alaska’s coasts.

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Alex DeMarban: June 6, 2013

Looking for lessons in Shell’s disastrous campaign to drill offshore in the Arctic, the Interior Department on Thursday launched an effort to create special rules for oil and gas activity in federal waters off Alaska’s coasts.

Leading the hearing was a former Alaskan who’s risen into the top echelons of the department. Tommy Beaudreau, an assistant secretary at Interior who oversees energy development in the U.S. offshore, said his years in Alaska have left him mindful of the promise of resource development and the dangers it presents.

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New leadership for Shell’s Arctic operations

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Blunders during the 2012 drilling season, including permitting and technical issues with the Noble Discoverer drillship and the grounding of the Kulluk conical drilling unit, led Shell to halt its 2013 drilling season. Courtesy Shell

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Suzanna Caldwell:May 1, 2013

Four months after a Royal Dutch Shell drillship ran aground in Alaska, raising questions about the company’s offshore drilling operations, the oil giant has appointed a new executive in charge of Arctic operations.

Ann Pickard, currently chairwoman of Shell’s Australian operations, will begin overseeing Shell’s Arctic operations in June.

Pickard will take over as executive vice president of Shell’s “Arctic, Upstream Americas” — part of a restructuring within Shell that separates Arctic operations from other divisions, said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in an email Wednesday.

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Moving on, Shell signs agreement with Russia to seek oil in Arctic

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Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/JPL, MISR Team

Eye on the Arctic: April 16, 2013

Although Royal Dutch Shell has announced a hiatus this summer for exploring the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean off of Alaska, the energy giant isn’t slowing down.  Shell has signed an agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom, allowing it to explore and develop petroleum prospects in Russia’s Arctic.

“Gazprom and Shell already partner in the Russian shelf development. The new accords enable us to explore the potential of our joint capabilities,” said Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, said in a press release.

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Shell Oil in Arctic: Learning to juggle, with chainsaws

Air permit emission limits were grossly violated yet drill operations continued.; Multiple critical engine failures also demonstrate their support vessels’ failed under stress. The eventual grounding of Shell’s giant mobile oil-drilling rig, the Kulluk, off Kodiak Island conveys a serious lack of planning to save a few dollars (before you go boating, check the weather).Could these mishaps be chalked up to bad luck? No. These operational bungles were all preventable.

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Waves crash over the mobile offshore drilling unit Kulluk where it sits aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. US Coast Guard photo

Daniel Lum: February 22, 2013

Looking back at an eventful season in offshore drilling, one must consider the challenges of the Arctic Ocean in tandem with the limitations of industry trying to operate so far north. Shell Oil has skated through one operational failure after another, a credit to their spokesman, without real consequence or permit restriction.

Air permit emission limits were grossly violated yet drill operations continued. Rigging and towline failures show that moving (and even securing) Shell’s mobile drill units is a challenge. A failed capping system limited the depth to which they could drill this season, requiring repairs thousands of miles away. Multiple critical engine failures also demonstrate their support vessels’ failed under stress. The eventual grounding of Shell’s giant mobile oil-drilling rig, the Kulluk, off Kodiak Island conveys a serious lack of planning to save a few dollars (before you go boating, check the weather).

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Evidence Shell Tax Dodging was Behind Kulluk debacle

By John Donovan

The Alaska Dispatch has quoted from an email that Shell Alaska spokesperson Curtis Smith (right) sent on 27 December 2012.

Curtis said in his email:

“it’s fair to say the current tax structure related to vessels of this type influenced the timing of our departure.”

He also said it could cost “multiple millions” if the Kulluk was still in Alaska waters Jan. 1.

I think we can safely assume that Mr Curtis will have earned a big black mark against his name at Shell PR for telling the truth. That is not a quality that Shell management is looking for in a spokesperson.

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Safety, pollution issues hold up Shell drillship in Alaska

Ben Anderson | Dec 27, 2012

Royal Dutch Shell’s Noble Discoverer — a 571-foot vessel integral to the company’s Arctic oil drilling aspirations — has been held up in Seward for several weeks to address what the Coast Guard described as  “pretty serious” issues with the ship’s safety and pollution- prevention systems.

According to Petty Officer Kip Wadlow, a spokesman with the Coast Guard in Juneau, the Noble Discoverer was put under what’s known as “port state control detention” on Nov. 29 when the drill ship was towed into Seward, thanks to a problem with its propulsion system.

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Will Shell Oil’s Arctic ‘beer can’ hold up better in second-chance containment trial?

Alex DeMarban | Dec 13, 2012

The containment dome Royal Dutch Shell hopes never to use has been transformed, following an accident this September that left it “crushed like a beer can” — hampering the company’s groundbreaking effort to suck oil from the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s North Slope.

The failed Puget Sound sea trial for the unique dome, essentially an undersea oil-sucking vacuum cleaner, plus construction delays on the Arctic Challenger barge that will house it, stymied Shell’s plans this summer to drill deep enough to reach oil this summer.

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Noble Discoverer stack fire contained by Shell Oil personnel

Eric Christopher Adams, Alex DeMarban | Nov 16, 2012

A drill rig involved in Shell Oil’s inaugural season of Arctic oil exploration briefly caught fire Friday morning in Dutch Harbor, an international port in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, according to the Unalaska Fire Department.

Firefighters responded to calls of a fire at the U.S. Coast Guard docks at 10:22 a.m. Friday, where a plume of black smoke was seen coming off of a vessel, according to Unalaska Fire Chief Abner Hoage. As firefighters approached the docks there was an explosion aboard the Noble Discoverer, Hoage said.

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Shell Oil’s next Arctic challenge?

Alex DeMarban | Oct 11, 2012

Believing the U.S. Arctic Ocean contains one of the world’s richest undiscovered oil and gas plays, Royal Dutch Shell is already considering what it will take to ship vast amounts of oil across Alaska.

The oil giant might just find the bonanza next summer. In recent weeks, it’s punched the first exploratory holes into the U.S. Arctic seabed in more than two decades. Federal regulators won’t let Shell drill into potential oil-bearing zones this season. But that’s expected to happen after the sea ice begins to melt next summer, now that the company’s oil-spill containment barge has won Coast Guard certification.

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Shell gains approval for early well work in Beaufort, seeks OK from whalers

Alex DeMarban | Sep 20, 2012

Kulluk shell offshore rig Shell Alaska photo

Federal regulators on Thursday gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to move forward with preliminary well work in the Beaufort Sea off northeast Alaska as soon as the subsistence whaling season ends.

The company is also working to obtain support from Inupiat Eskimo whalers that could allow Shell to move its drill rig over the Sivalluq prospect in the Beaufort, 20 miles north of Point Thomson off Alaska’s northeast coast, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

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Arctic rig departs, Shell meets with US regulators on change of plans

Alex DeMarban | Aug 21, 2012

Attempting to salvage a shortened drilling season in the Arctic, Royal Dutch Shell is working with federal regulators on a plan that might allow it to do some preparatory drilling soon, according to Financial Times. In anticipation, on Monday Shell’s drilling rig, the Kulluk, departed Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian Islands, heading for Arctic waters.

Europe’s largest oil company had hoped to be drilling in the US Arctic Ocean in July, but it now appears it’ll be lucky if it’s drilling next month. Shell had originally hoped to drill up to five wells in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas this season, but the company has scaled back plans to just one to two wells.

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Alaska election: Shell dives into state politics and ‘super PACs’ emerge

Amanda Coyne | Jul 31, 2012

As Royal Dutch Shell prepares to explore for offshore oil in Alaska’s Arctic, the company is also waging an effort against a ballot initiative that supporters say would restore the voice of Alaskans in federal coastal decisions.

Shell has contributed $150,000 to the Vote No on 2 campaign, which opposes reinstating the controversial Coastal Zone Management program, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Vote No on 2 has raised $768,000 — far more than the $64,000 raised by the Alaska Sea Party, the proponents of reviving Coastal Zone Management.

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Shell’s ship drifting incident should raise red flags for Alaskans

Carey Restino | The Arctic Sounder | Jul 21, 2012

I am not a boat captain, not of a skiff or even a dingy. I’ve never dropped an anchor and I have no idea what it’s like to be in charge of a vessel more than 500 feet long.

So when my uneducated eyes saw the image of Arctic-bound Shell Oil drillship Noble Discoverer snuggling up to the beach near Unalaska, I, like many, dropped jaw and asked, “How on earth could they have let that happen?”

But noting my ignorance, I asked the opinion of people who do deal with big vessels on a daily basis. Their response? “How on earth could they have let that happen?”

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How rapidly is Shell Oil’s window of opportunity in the Arctic shrinking?

Alex DeMarban | Jul 21, 2012

As predictable as bears roaming and salmon migrating comes the return of another seasonal fact of life in Alaska: Shell Oil waiting for the chance to drill exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean.

The pioneering oil giant’s quest to open an industrial frontier in the waters off Alaska’s coast has made it no stranger to delay, and this year is no different.

Shell moved ships to Alaska the summer of 2010, but a federal drilling moratorium in the wake of BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill quashed plans that season. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency still hadn’t granted Shell the air permits it needed, canceling another round of seasonal activity.

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Shell offshore drilling vessel Noble Discoverer drifts near shore in Unalaska

Alaska Dispatch | Jul 14, 2012

Royal Dutch Shell’s hopes to drill in Alaska’s Arctic this summer have been hitting some hurdles lately, with potential problems arising with air permits, a hiccup over an oil-spill containment barge docked in Washington state and now, the drill ship Noble Discoverer came unexpectedly close to shore Saturday in Unalaska Bay on its eventual trek to the Arctic.

It was not immediately clear if the vessel had actually run aground.

Unalaska radio station KUCB reports that the Noble Discoverer began drifting toward shore sometime Saturday afternoon. A longshoreman quoted in the story said that he observed the vessel as neared shore and appeared to be dragging its anchor.

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Shell readies to roll dice on multibillion-dollar bet in Arctic Alaska

Alex DeMarban | Jun 30, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series looking at Shell’s plans to drill for offshore oil in Alaska’s Arctic. Part 2 will look at the small revenue the state can expect from federal offshore development and congressional efforts to change that. Part 3 will focus on the pipelines Shell must build to ship its oil to market — if it finds enough to justify the massive cost.

Talk to folks with Royal Dutch Shell for any length of time and you walk away thinking they’re holding a handful of aces.

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Greenpeace, Shell show off Arctic assets in Seattle

Alaska Dispatch | Jun 11, 2012

Popular Mechanics reports on touring the Kulluk, an oil rig being refurbished by Royal Dutch Shell to drill off the Alaska Coast this July.

The Kulluk, currently residing in Vigor Shipyards in Seattle, is being refurbished by Royal Dutch Shell after six years of inactivity. The modifications of the Kulluk are nearly complete, and the rig is set to be towed north this month, up through the Bering Strait and east of Point Barrow, with operations to begin in late July.

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Shell’s long road to explore for oil in Alaska’s Arctic

Mia Bennett | Eye on the Arctic | Jun 02, 2012

Analysis: On May 25, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) August 2011 decision to permit Shell to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska’s north shore.

The Native Village of Point Hope and the Inupiat Community of the North Slope had challenged the decision in court, as did nonprofit activist organizations such as Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. This is the third time the government has had to defend its approval of Shell’s offshore drilling plans in court.

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Shell contracting Finnish icebreakers for Arctic oil exploration

Icebreaker Fennica will take part in Shell’s oil drilling project in the Arctic. Arctia Shipping photo

Mar 08, 2012

Oil giant Shell is planning to start charting the seas for oil drilling in the Arctic, and Finnish icebreakers are coming along on the test drillings, even as Greenpeace says oil drilling in the Arctic is dangerous in the extreme.

Shell is looking into offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea by the Alaskan coast and the untouched waters of the adjacent Chukchi Sea. For this venture, the company has signed a lease deal for two icebreakers, Fennica and Nordica, with Finnish state firm Arctia Shipping.

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Environmental groups weighing appeal of Shell’s air permit

Alaska Dispatch | Sep 21, 2011

Environmental groups say they’re reviewing air quality permits approved Monday by the federal government for Shell Oil, which hopes to drill offshore next year in Alaska’s Arctic.

The Environmental Protection Agency authorized air emissions from Shell’s drill ship Discover and a support fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels and supply ships to operate 120 days a year in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

According to reports by Dow Jones and Reuters, Shell could face additional legal challenges over the permits, the approval of which marked a “major milestone” in oil multinational’s multi-year, billion dollar Arctic offshore drilling quest.

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Shell Alaska oil drilling rig heads south

Shell is moving its Arctic drill rig, the Kulluk, to Seattle for maintenance and technical upgrades.

This according to the West Seattle Blog, which keeps a close eye on the industrial marine facilities there and saw the notice in a marine industry advisory. Actually, the popular hyperlocal online site is more interested in the fact that another floating industrial machine that looks like a giant golf ball and has dominated the skyline for two months needs to be moved to make way for the Kulluk. The golf-ball thing is actually the SBX, for military Sea-Based X-Band missile detecting radar system.

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No Arctic science ‘silver bullet’

Patti Epler | Jun 23, 2011

A long-awaited federal report released Thursday points to numerous holes in scientific knowledge about the Arctic that could shed important light on how oil and gas development would affect the area.

Now, the question is: what will anyone do with it?

The 272-page document will undoubtedly end up in court, on one side or the other, as legal battles over Arctic development continue. Whether the report’s numerous recommendations will be followed remains to be seen.

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