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Barge Flaws Delay Shell Alaska Drilling, Coast Guard Says

By Katarzyna Klimasinska and Carol Wolf – Jul 6, 2012 4:19 PM GMT+0100

A barge Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) plans to use during oil exploration off Alaska’s north coast is being held up by U.S. Coast Guard inspectors, delaying the start of the drilling the company intended to begin this month.

The inspectors said the barge, intended to be part of Shell’s oil-spill response, has deficiencies in fire-fighting and electrical systems that must be corrected before a permit is issued. The agency said the company is seeking to ease the standards the barge will need to meet.

“The number of deficiencies cause a delay, because they have to be corrected, and then the corrections have to be inspected, so that takes time,” Christopher O’Neil, a Washington-based spokesman for the Coast Guard, said today in a phone interview. “Until the vessel meets the standards, it’s not going to get certificated. Until it’s certificated, it can’t operate as intended.”

The company, which plans to drill five exploratory oil wells this year, must complete any drilling by late September in the Chukchi Sea, and end of October in the Beaufort Sea to avoid the onset of ice.

Besides the Coast Guard certificate, Shell has to obtain a final permit from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The company didn’t reply to e-mails and a telephone call seeking comment.

A Shell spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, which reported the Coast Guard request in today’s editions, that the company is working to resolve the issues and the modifications won’t delay drilling operations.

To contact the reporters on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at [email protected]; Carol Wolf in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at [email protected]

SOURCE

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