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Shell conducts drills with Arctic oil spill response system

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 08.56.29From an article by Jennifer A. Dlouhy published 26 March 2015 by

Shell conducts drills with Arctic oil spill response system

WASHINGTON — Shell’s Arctic oil spill response system is undergoing drills in waters near Bellingham, Washington, with government officials observing the exercises.

Shell Oil Co. is conducting the testing as it plans a new round of exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska later this year.

Shell’s last venture, in 2012, was cut short when the emergency containment system was damaged during a deployment test — preventing the equipment from making it to the Arctic in time to safeguard drilling into oil- and gas-bearing zones more than 1,000 feet below the sea floor.

Read more: Shell committed to Arctic drilling, despite setback

The system, carried and deployed from the Arctic Challenger barge, was later repaired and certified.

But while new certifications are not needed for Shell’s proposed 2015 drilling, the exercises — set to begin in earnest Friday morning and span several days — are designed to put the equipment through its paces for regulators who will decide whether the company wins other critical government approvals.

“Although the Arctic Challenger was certified by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and U.S. Coast Guard in late 2012, we volunteered to demonstrate its capabilities to regulators in advance of 2015 drilling,” said Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Brian Salerno and Assistant Interior Secretary Janice Schneider are among the officials set to watch as the containment system is deployed, at Shell’s invitation.

U.S. Coast Guard inspectors also are on the scene “to witness the readiness of the crew, confirm the seaworthiness of the vessel and ensure compliance to U.S. and international laws, regulations and standards,” said a safety bureau spokesman.

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