Sweet, sweet music...USCG turn over NOBLE DISCOVER violations to DoJ!

Willful violations are CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS!

[B]Coast Guard finds evidence of safety violations on Shell rig[/B]

By Kim Murphy February 23, 2013

NOBLE DISCOVERER not aground at Dutch Harbor last year

The U.S. Coast Guard has found evidence of multiple safety and environmental violations in Shell Alaska’s Noble Discoverer Arctic drilling rig and forwarded it to the U.S. Justice Department for a decision about possible civil or criminal penalties, authorities confirmed Friday.

The news is the latest setback for Shell’s troubled Arctic drilling program, launched last summer off the coast of Alaska to tap one of the world’s biggest remaining oil and gas deposits. It has been plagued with logistical and mechanical troubles that raise questions about the company’s ability to continue this year.

Already, the company’s second Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, is facing substantial repairs after coming loose from a tow through the Gulf of Alaska and grounding on rocks near Kodiak Island. Now it appears that the Noble Discoverer has problems of its own, detailed in a Coast Guard report made available this week to the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Coast Guard found a lack of preventive maintenance and “systematic failure” led the Discoverer to experience a loss of its propulsion system and an explosion in its exhaust system, according to a letter to Shell’s president from U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) that detailed 16 reported deficiencies.

The letter also cited Shell’s own discovery of possible unauthorized collected water discharges outside the allowable period for drilling operations.

“The reports that Shell may have been drilling this summer using a drill ship with serious deficiencies in its safety and pollution control equipment raise additional and continued questions about whether Shell is able to drill safely offshore in the Arctic and raises serious questions regarding the nature and adequacy of Shell’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” Markey wrote.

The violations appear to be serious enough that Coast Guard officials in Alaska said they have referred the case to the Justice Department for review.

“The Coast Guard has referred some matters to us related to the Noble Discoverer, and we can’t comment beyond that,” said Kevin Feldis, assistant U.S. Attorney in Anchorage.

The Coast Guard reportedly found that the Discoverer is not able to maintain sufficient speed at sea to maneuver safely in all conditions without a tow; multiple dead end wires and improper wire splices in the engine room; main engine cooling water contaminated with oil and sludge.

In addition, the vessel experienced an abnormal propeller shaft vibration on the way back from the Arctic in November, requiring the crew to shut down the vessel’s main engines and have the rig towed to the Port of Seward.

“It is imperative that any drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean occur with the highest levels of safety and environmental protections in place, and I am not convinced that these levels can ever be met given the extreme weather conditions, and Shell’s performance thus far,” Markey wrote.

Some of the reported deficiencies were described by the Coast Guard earlier and Shell has said the owner of the vessel, the Noble Corp., with which Shell has contracted for Arctic operations, already have moved to correct many of them.

“Of course, we take any deficiency very seriously, including those associated with the main propulsion system that surfaced after the Noble Discoverer had transited out of the Chukchi Sea,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said. “At no time was the Noble Discoverer found or believed to be a danger to people or the environment while drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2012. Had that been the case, we would have ceased all operations immediately.”

Both the Kulluk and the Discoverer are scheduled to be transferred to a shipyard in Asia for inspections and repairs, with their return to operations in the Alaska Arctic depending on how extensive are the needed repairs, Smith said.

Throw the book at em I say! Lock’m up and throw away the key!


Shareholder revolt on the risks they took ( assuming they know) is the best tool
Yeasr ago Shell tanker dropped some bilge water south of Australia and it drifted to shore on a penguin colony.
When it hit the news, the public didnt buy a drop of Shell at the pump till they paid a huge fine and a huge donation
I was amazed at the reaction

Why do these EEDIOTS always think covering up a problem is better than just reporting it? The repercussions from evading are always worse and the financial penalties are just piled on.

WE ll there goes 10,000 high paying jobs on the North Slope/Arctic for another ten years. THANKS A LOT SHELL!

c.captain predicted all along that the Shell / Noble team (and their equipment) was not up to the task of Arctic oil exploration. Unfortunately, events have proven him all too right.

Our hopes for energy independence and thousands of high paying new Alaska jobs have been set back for years.

The KULLUK and NOBLE DISCOVERER should never return to the US Arctic. They should probably be turned into razor blades, but if repaired (and that is probably a big if) they should be sent elsewhere.

If Shell is ever allowed to return to the US Arctic, it should only be with a competent new management team, new state-of-the-art equipment, a new drilling contractor, and mariners with significant Alaska experience. In other words, spare no effort or expense to have the best possible people and equipment, or don’t come back.

Any further incidents could lead to a permanent ban on Arctic drilling, if it hasn’t already.

What I have the hardest time trying to understand is why Shell is trying to do this using junk rigs. I know a lot of money has been spent on them to bring them up to date, but why not get a brand new rig purpose built for the Arctic. They would come out in the long run.

All I can say after having been with Noble for two years is that none of this comes as a surprise to me. I could tell tales but I believe that this entire debacle is such a huge black eye to both Shell and Noble that I don’t need to throw any punches of my own anymore. Both companies have done a remarkable job of beating themselves bloody that it staggers the imagination that such can happen but when you have both incompetence and hubris this is the result you get.

I will not say that KULLUK should be banned from returning but certainly the DISCOVERER should. She is not purpose built and her record now is so bad that I do not know how Shell could convince the public that ship can ever be considered really safe for the job. As I have said, both BULLY drillships are ice classed so there is no reason that I can see for Shell to not bite the bullet and get one of the two refitted to be able to work in the Arctic. Time to stop dumping more hundreds of millions into a 1963 hull when you can instead put it into a 2010 hull except that more time is needed to make a BULLY Arctic ready. Could a BULLY be ready for 2014? I don’t know…I would say it is possible but there would not be a day to waste on getting the equipment ordered and a shipyard contract signed.

Time for Shell to see the reality here and stop making such massive mistakes. There is too much at risk to be CHEAP with this shit!

[QUOTE=Capt. Lee;101187]What I have the hardest time trying to understand is why Shell is trying to do this using junk rigs. I know a lot of money has been spent on them to bring them up to date, but why not get a brand new rig purpose built for the Arctic. They would come out in the long run.[/QUOTE]

Using an older modified vessel is going to absorb more of the crew’s attention on a day to day basis. For example regulation compliance, maintenance and just routine daily tasks are gong to be more difficult on the converted vessel compared to a new purpose built vessel. Not to mention crew comfort and convenience.

We understand this as mariners but, for some reason, Shell does not.

By the way, I can not find the KULLUK tow flotilla on AIS. I wonder what kind of progress they are making.

The hull damage to KULLUK must be severe. The machinery, wiring and interior has been ruined by water intrusion. God only knows what else was shaken apart or fatigued while pounding on the beach. The existing engines can never be made to meet all these stupid and grossly excessive EPA air emission standards. So it appears that KULLUK needs to be stripped out, have major structural repairs, and all new machinery. Isn’t that likely to cost at least 50% of the cost of a new rig, and perhaps take longer than it would to build a new rig? Why bother? Why give Greenpeace a chance to decry using a patched up 30 year old rig that was nothing but trouble the last time it was in Alaska?

Its a similar story on the NOBLE DISCOVERER. An old ship with a track record of environmental violations, machinery that cannot meet EPA air emissions, and so on. Not to mention the possibility that dry docking may uncover grounding damage to the shaft or propeller from when it “didn’t go aground” in Dutch Harbor. If she comes back, Greenpeace will have a ball. It would be much better to patch her up and send her to someplace a lot less visible.

Greenpeace and the public don’t want to hear about Shell modifying any more poorly designed rigs to attempt to make them “Arctic ready.” No rig is the only rig that would ever satisfy Greenpeace. The public would accept a nearly new, best-in-class, Arctic ready rig, provided it can also meet the EPA air emissions.

Shell already has the STENA DRILLMAX ICE on charter, but they are using it the tropics! Shell just needs one more late model Arctic ready rig. Perhaps they need to partner up with another oil company that has another Arctic ready new rig. Someone must. Statoil?

Of course Shell needs to find at least two more pollution response barges that actually work, and tow them with three times as many tugs as are actually needed.

I think they need to prove that there is commercially viable oil in the Arctic before they get too carried away with building more Billion Dollar a piece Arctic rigs. The sooner the better; there is another Congressional election coming in 2014, and it doesn’t look good. The public won’t allow Congress to ban drilling after a big oil find, but as long as the presence of oil is unknown, Arctic drilling is at serious risk of a longterm ban.

Tough for the crew members under scrutiny. A can-do attitude can sometimes take you down the wrong path.

I am very curious about the news, very thanks for share