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A Rush to Expand Oil Drilling in the Arctic

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Waves crash over Royal Dutch Shell’s conical drilling unit Kulluk, where it sits aground Jan. 1, 2013, on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. A unified command, consisting of U.S. Coast Guardsmen; federal, state and local partners; and industry representatives, was established in response to the grounding.

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Nations are moving to exploit the commercial potential of the region

By : December 5, 2013

In late December 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched to rescue 18 crew members from the Kulluk, a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig that had broken free from its tow. The responders battled an Arctic storm that generated near hurricane-strength winds and 50-foot waves, but despite their efforts, the rig ran aground off of a small Alaskan island on New Year’s Eve. The oil rig’s fuel tanks were not breached, according to a Department of the Interior review, but up to 272 gallons of diesel oil may have flowed into the water from shattered lifeboats. The Kulluk incident – the culmination of the first exploratory drilling effort in the U.S. Arctic in almost two decades – demonstrated the perils posed by this remote and harsh area of the world.

Kira Zalan is an editor for U.S. News Weekly. You can reach her at


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