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Xena’s squeeze on Voser

The Sunday Times: Business Section Page 10: February 26, 2012

Xena’s squeeze on Voser

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL must have thought it had done the hard work when it won permits from the US government to drill for oil in Alaska.

Not so fast. There are still some fearsome opponents to be conquered, including Xena, the warrior princess. Fans of schlock TV will remember Xena, a kind of female Conan the Barbarian, who once threatened to crush a foe’s head “like a peanut between the thighs of doom”.

Last week Lucy Lawless, the Kiwi actress who played Xena, led a group of activists as they boarded a drilling rig in the port of Taranaki, New Zealand. The rig was due to sail to the Arctic to start drilling this summer.

Lawless said: “I’m blocking Shell’s Arctic drill ship because I believe passionately that renewable energy is the way of the future. We don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to suck out every last drop of oil. Instead we need to smarten up and begin the transition to a clean, green, sustainable energy future and right now that means keeping Shell out of the Arctic.”

Peter Voser, Shell’s mild -mannered chief executive, had better look out. The thighs of doom await.

Photo caption: Shell shock: Lucy Lawless displays Xena’s thighs of doom


Protesting Lawless shrugs off Shell ad (NZ: 28 Feb 2012)

Actress and Greenpeace activist Lucy Lawless has shrugged off revelations she acted in a 1990s television commercial for Shell Oil, the company she protested against for the past four days at Port Taranaki.

Lawless and five other Greenpeace members were arrested yesterday when police ordered an end to their occupation of the Arctic-bound drill ship Noble Discoverer.


Activists, actor Lucy Lawless arrested for Shell Arctic drillship occupation 27 Feb 2012 (Occupation of the Noble Discoverer)

Twinkle, twinkle, damaged drillship the Noble Discoverer 11 May 2011



In case you hadn’t noticed, Shell is planning to use the same drillship as last year (50 years old vessel, converted from Japanese log carrier to drillship in 1976…)

It’s not exactly state of the art…..


The only other obvious ingredient missing for a guaranteed disaster befalling this ancient vessel while drilling in the Arctic Ocean is Captain Francesco Schettino.

Hope the lifeboats are seaworthy


I guess Schettino is probably looking for a job…..but I doubt whether he would want to work on a vessel which probably defines the other end of the spectrum from his last command.

I can’t believe Shell are sending that rust bucket to such a high profile drilling operation – they boast about spending $2bn on acquiring the drilling rights, but then send a rig long overdue for the scrapyard to drill the well. If anything goes wrong (and it will) it will be hard to deny that the use of 35 year old equipment installed on board a 50 year old vessel was not in some way responsible. Maybe Shell are just hoping that the isolated location (and their PR machine) will prevent bad news from getting into the press….

There are plenty of newer, more efficient vessels available in the world today with up to date drilling systems and well control equipment. The additional costs of using a newer vessel would be relatively low, the use of automated drilling and pipe handling systems would reduce the risk of accidents, and the vessels would be fully equipped for zero discharge operations. Modern equipment is inherently more reliable than the equipment designed and built when floating drilling vessels were in their infancy, and does not bring with it the wear and tear of 40 hard years at sea.

The world’s drillships are listed at – while there are a few others which are of a similar age to the Noble Discoverer, the vast majority are much more recent. In addition most of the other old vessels were purpose built drillships, rather than the result of installing a drilling package on a vessel which had already been in use for a decade before being converted for use as a drillship.

The small amounts of money saved by using the Discoverer rather than a more recent, more capable vessel may prove to be a very expensive mistake if any oil is spilled. Airborne sensors can now detect relatively small amounts of oil in water, and I presume the environmentalists will be flying around the vessel on a regular basis, and monitoring the discharges. Of course, Shell may pre-empt that by asking the authorities to establish a no-fly zone around the vessel.


Shell has in fact already called for a “safety zone”…

US Coast Guard proposes safety zones around Shell’s Alaska drill ships

Washington (Platts)–22Feb2012/607 pm EST/2307 GMT

The US Coast Guard is proposing a 500-meter safety zone around each of the two drill ships that Shell would use if its plans to spud exploratory wells in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer are approved.

Shell requested the zones to reduce the chance of collisions with vessels operating outside of the normal shipping channels, the Coast Guard said in a proposal to be published in Thursday’s Federal Register.

A 500-meter safety zone would be established around the mobile offshore drilling unit Noble Discoverer, which Shell has said it would use to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. The proposed zone would be established from July 1 through October 31.

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