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Shell’s jinxed Arctic drilling farce

By John Donovan

In May 2012 I contacted a senior lawyer at Royal Dutch Shell Plc seeking confirmation that the oil giant had been unable to insure the risks involved in its Arctic drilling plans and for this reason, had self-insured. There was no response. The same month we published an article about Shell’s related plan to use oil spill sniffer dogs. Lets hope they have also been trained to swim.

Shell’s rigs eventually arrived in the Arctic after being beset by construction delays, permit problems and stubborn sea ice.

In July, the Shell drilling ship the Noble Discoverer, ended up ‘grounded’ in Dutch Harbor after the vessel slipped its anchorage and drifted out of control.

Then the company’s first-of-its-kind oil spill containment barge was damaged during certification tests.

Early in November a further problem arose. Helicopters being used by Shell did not have critical de-icing equipment. Apparently no one expected it to be cold.

On 16 November 2012, the Alaska Dispatch reported a fire and explosion aboard the Noble Discoverer which Shell attempted to downplay, describing it as a small “flash fire”.

On 28 December, it was reported that the Kulluk drilling rig was adrift in the Gulf of Alaska facing storm force winds and monster seas. A tugboat had multiple engine failures.

Conditions were reportedly so bad that despite two attempts, the U.S. Coast Guard were unable to evacuate the crew of the Kulluk.

18 employees have now been evacuated.

Shell’s Monty Python Arctic Follies, plagued by misfortune and mismanagement, continues…

Crews tow Shell drill vessel to ride out storm at sea

Rough weather makes assistance difficult for Shell drill rig, tow vessel

Shell Oil drilling vessel is adrift in Gulf of Alaska (News as of 31 December 2012) and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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