Will the ARCTIC CHALLENGER keep Shell from drilling in the Arctic this year?

[B][U]Salazar: Arctic Drilling Might Wait Until 2013[/U][/B]

By Olga Belogolova
August 13, 2012

A delay in getting oil-spill equipment into the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska means that Shell Oil might not be able to start the first offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean this year as planned, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Monday.

Shell is still working to meet Coast Guard requirements for its spill-containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, but “if they are not met, there won’t be Shell exploration efforts that will occur this year,” Salazar said sharply on a conference call from Anchorage, Alaska.

Heavy sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas pushed back Shell’s initial plans to begin drilling in July, but Salazar argued on Monday that Shell bears the blame for not being ready to start drilling now. “It’s not the ice conditions that have held up the effort,” he said. “They have not been able to get it done," he said, referring to the incomplete and uncertified containment vessel. “If they had gotten it done, they may already be up there today.”

Shell issued a statement later on Monday saying it agreed with Interior that drilling should not begin until the containment barge is in place, but it still hopes to begin drilling this summer.

“Progress related to the final construction of the Arctic Challenger containment barge remains steady,” said the statement from Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh. “We continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to outline a schedule for final inspections and an on-water deployment that would lead to certification. There’s no set timeline for the completion of this important process.

“This is the world’s first Arctic containment system, and there are a number of major systems that have recently been completed. These systems must now be thoroughly inspected. It’s a process that takes time and one that can’t be rushed.”

Salazar’s conference call was a wrap-up of his three-day visit to Alaska, during which he toured the North Slope and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Earlier this summer, Salazar suggested that the Interior Department would make a final determination on Shell’s drilling permits in the Arctic by Aug. 15, and with that deadline not far off there had been some anticipation that Salazar might announce the permit approval on Monday.

But with Shell’s containment barge still subject to Coast Guard certification and time running out, Salazar said that “over the next several weeks, some final decisions will be made.” Salazar wouldn’t say when it might be too late for Shell to move forward with its exploratory drilling program, but noted that “we don’t have a lot of time.”

Shell is required to be out of the Chukchi Sea by Sept. 24 in advance of the harsh Arctic fall and winter and out of the Beaufort Sea by the end of October.

While some lawmakers and drilling advocates have suggested that Interior consider pushing back the end of the drilling season due to the unusually heavy ice conditions in the Arctic earlier this summer, Salazar insisted that Shell’s holdup is “not a matter of ice.”

Salazar noted that the Arctic drilling season is “a very dynamic situation” in which “conditions are rapidly changing.” Therefore, he said, “we don’t know what will be happening this summer.”

If Shell presents some sort of alternative plan, Interior “will certainly take a look,” Salazar said, but he added that there have been no requests for a change of plans from Shell.

No matter what happens, though, Salazar promised to remain vigilant. “I will hold their feet to the fire in terms of making sure that we’re doing everything we can,” he said.

what more than this one man add except this

[B][U]Troubled Arctic Challenger cited for small illegal discharges[/U][/B]

By Kim Murphy
August 13, 2012, 6:49 p.m.

SEATTLE — The containment vessel designed to capture oil in the event of a spill during exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska has itself been responsible for four minor illegal fluid discharges during the last three weeks, the Coast Guard confirmed Monday.

The discharges all involved hydraulic fluid and were generally limited to about a quart each time, all of which was contained and cleaned up. The fine was just $250. But the discharges signal Shell Exploration’s continuing problems with the vessel, the Arctic Challenger, whose trouble-plagued retrofit in Bellingham, Wash., has delayed the launch of the first major offshore oil drilling in the U.S. Arctic in 20 years.

“They’re small spills," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick said. "I wouldn’t say that a spill in the yard is necessarily uncommon. But I also wouldn’t say that they happen all the time. It’s common that if you spill something the first time, you get a warning, and at some point the warning turns to a fine, and that’s what you saw here.”

The retrofitting is being undertaken by Superior Energy Marine Technical Services, under contract to Shell.

Though the bulk of Shell’s drilling fleet has long since set sail for Alaska, the Arctic Challenger remains mired in port as workers hurry to try to complete needed fixes before the vessel can be certified by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Bureau of Shipping.

The company’s hoped-for target of finishing the reconstruction by Aug. 15 now has been pushed back to Aug. 30, according to sources familiar with the work. Coast Guard officials said several major systems still remain to be completed before certification can occur.

"At the end of the day, the question is: Is the Arctic Challenger any closer to obtaining a certificate of inspection? The only way to accurately reflect that is through completion of major systems and major subsystems. And as of this moment, I don’t think we’ve made any progress since last Monday,” Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. C.T. O’Neil told the Los Angeles Times.

As of last week, the Coast Guard said about 400 inspection and plan review items remained to be satisfied, all relating to the design, construction and installation of safety, structural, mooring and machinery systems.

Frederick said all four fluid discharges were self-reported by Superior Energy. They included a spill of a quart of hydraulic fluid due to a ruptured hydraulic line on July 24, for which the company received a warning; another mechanical leak of a quart of hydraulic fluid on Aug. 4, for which another warning was issued; a leak of an additional quart on Aug. 6 due to “equipment failure,” for which the company was fined $250; a discharge of five gallons of fuel on Aug. 7 from a small skiff that is a support vessel to the Arctic Challenger.

Any additional spills would be assessed a civil penalty, Frederick said.

A source familiar with the construction said Shell inspectors were alarmed when they saw evidence of a discharge near the Arctic Challenger.

“When a Shell corporate observer noticed a sheen on the water and inquired with a Superior Energy manager, he was met with resistance and told it was none of his business and to butt out,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the construction. “He insisted it was his business since this project has Shell’s name all over it.… There was quite a commotion on the dock.”

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said he did not have any information on the accidental releases.

“Having said that, a discharge — no matter how small — is unacceptable. We are pleased with the progress being made and look forward to sea trials in the days ahead,” Smith said in an email to The Times.

With more than $4 billion invested in the long-delayed Arctic drilling program, Shell has had to scale back its ambitions for the summer drilling season and now expects to drill only about two wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday he had received no concrete proposal from the company to extend the drilling cutoff deadline — put in place to wind up operations and allow time for any needed cleanup before the onset of winter ice. The deadline is currently set for late September in the Chukchi Sea and late October in the Beaufort Sea.

“It’s necessary for Shell to be able to demonstrate that they have met the regulatory requirements that we have put in place,” Salazar said at a news conference in Anchorage. “If they are not met, then there will not be a Shell exploration effort that will take place this year.”

Wow ! Talk about a billion dollar snafu.

I bet there will an announcement soon that Shell is pulling the plug on the entire 2012 Arctic drilling program.

[QUOTE=tugsailor;78553]Wow ! Talk about a billion dollar snafu.

I bet there will an announcement soon that Shell is pulling the plug on the entire 2012 Arctic drilling program.[/QUOTE]

I certainly think that’s where my money is going but I sense now that the government if being punitive to Shell. The tone in Salazar’s remarks certainly indicate that and that surprises me because after the DISCO grounding it appeared that the gummint was onboard with Shell and bending over backwards to keep the program moving forward. Oh well, there are actions happening behind the scenes that never see the light of day and who knows what those are here. Somebody seriously pissed somebody else off!

[QUOTE=c.captain;78594]I certainly think that’s where my money is going but I sense now that the government if being punitive to Shell. The tone in Salazar’s remarks certainly indicate that and that surprises me because after the DISCO grounding it appeared that the gummint was onboard with Shell and bending over backwards to keep the program moving forward. Oh well, there are actions happening behind the scenes that never see the light of day and who knows what those are here. Somebody seriously pissed somebody else off![/QUOTE]

I have very few contacts remaining in the industry, the ones who are have told me everyone involved in this abomination is doing their level best to cover their ass. So, what’s new? Isn’t that always the case, pointing fingers at the other guy while the other guy is pointing to yet another guy. What a freak’en mess!


I’ve said it many times already but how can one item like a barge be the downfall of such a huge undertaking? It is not having this barge was something the USCG or the DoI came up with at the last moment. Shell has had years to get this done and while it would make sense to me to allow Shell to at least spud in the wells to at least get something accomplished, they don’t have to. As much as we all loathe the heavy hand of government regulators, Salazar is spot on when is said:

“If they had gotten it done, they may already be up there today.”

Again, who knows who in Shell pissed off the regulators, but this a big deal and for this to have happened is Shell’s fault. Somebody’s head must roll this winter and it should be the head of Peter Slaiby, Shell VP in charge of the Arctic Program then Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands should go to Houston and tell Shell US that the clown circus is over. The first fuck up by anybody will result in immediate dismissal of anybody involved. No finger pointing…just clear the decks and start afresh even if it happens in mid season. Generals who fail in battles are sacked and replaced with those who succeed. Put the fear of God into each and everyone’s souls that their careers are hanging on this. The same should go for contractors, Fuck up and it’s over for you. Everybody can be replaced!

If the oil spill barge is a critical item for this operation, why didn’t they have three barges ready to go? The need for spares should be obvious in a first of its kind operation in such a remote location.

Anyway — how was just one barge supposed to cover two drilling sites hundreds of miles part, in supposedly ice infested waters?

Look at what they are missing out on now: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES/arctic.seaice.color.003.png The ice pack must be 400 miles offshore in the Beaufort.

found this article from the Houston Chronicle

[B][U]Interior chief says Shell equipment behind Arctic drilling delays[/U][/B]

By Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Monday, August 13, 2012

WASHINGTON - Neither thick Arctic ice nor government red tape is holding back Shell’s plans to search for oil in waters north of Alaska this summer, a top Obama administration official said Monday.

Instead, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters, the delays are Shell’s own making.

A key oil spill containment system and the barge carrying it have not cleared a required Coast Guard inspection or been tested in front of federal drilling safety regulators. Instead, the 36-year-old Arctic Challenger barge has been docked and undergoing renovations in Bellingham, Wash.

“The cause for any delay here is Shell’s construction of its vessel,” Salazar said. “They have not been able to get it done. If they had got it done, they may already be up there today.”

He said waters are open in the area of the Chukchi Sea where Shell plans to explore, called the Burger find.

“It’s not a matter of ice, it’s a matter of whether Shell has the mechanical capability” to comply with the exploration plan that had been approved, Salazar added.

Salazar’s comments came during a news conference to unveil the Interior Department’s new plan for managing oil production in the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Salazar said the chosen management plan strikes a balance between conservation and energy production in the 89-year-old reserve in northwest Alaska. For instance, he said, while oil and gas development would be allowed in 11.8 million acres, the plan would wall off the activity in other regions that are home to caribou and polar bears.

Industry officials and their allies in Congress said the plan could make it difficult to connect future oil development in the Chukchi Sea - including the sites Shell is planning to drill - with the Trans Alaska Pipeline System on the North Slope.

Although Salazar said the plan does not intend to “foreclose” a future pipeline stretching across the reserve, it could make one more difficult to design and build, because it would have to navigate around newly protected areas, such as Teshekpuk Lake and Kasegaluk Lagoon, a likely spot for a pipeline to come ashore.

Shell Oil Co. is counting on such a pipeline to carry crude from any oil discoveries it makes in the Chukchi Sea. Even if the company strikes oil this summer, production would be years away.

Shell has spent nearly $5 billion and seven years preparing to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The company awaits just a few government approvals - including drilling permits from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement - before it can launch the work.

But those permits are contingent on Shell satisfying the terms of its Interior Department-approved plan for responding to oil spills in Arctic waters, which includes a system for capping and containing a runaway underwater well.

Salazar left open the possibility that Shell could begin some prep work at its Arctic drilling sites - including excavation of the seafloor to accommodate emergency equipment that would guard the wellhead - even without the containment system.

But Shell has not requested any such “alternative,” Salazar said.

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the company may consider a proposal to allow the company to begin site preparation and top-hole drilling in non-hydrocarbon zones before the containment barge is anchored nearby.

Salazar previously told reporters he anticipated Shell would win its well drilling permits, and he emphasized Monday that key decisions would come in the next several weeks.

Even if Shell wins every necessary government approval, the company’s window for drilling is short. Shell must stop drilling in hydrocarbon-bearing zones by Sept. 24 in the Chukchi Sea and Oct. 31 in the Beaufort Sea.

Shell officials now say just two out of 10 planned wells are likely to be completed this year. And Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby has conceded that even those two might be a challenge under the abbreviated schedule.


2012 continues to set new records for the least amount of ice coverage over the last 75 days. With about 50 days to go before the ice starts reforming, the 2012 ice coverage is already getting quite to close to the record minimum set in September 2007.

this is why Peter Slaiby needs to go this winter

[B]Shell Has Been Arctic-Ready for Years[/B]

By Pete Slaiby, Shell Alaska VP

In her recent opinion piece, Wilderness Society Director, Lois Epstein, assumes that neither Alaskans, the Nation nor Shell is, “ready to drill safely in the Arctic.”

Ms. Epstein then dismisses decades of data that indicates otherwise and claims drilling in the Arctic would lead to a, “reasonable likelihood of disaster.” The fact is, Shell and others have successfully drilled over 35 wells in the Alaska offshore without incident – not counting the Cook Inlet wells that have helped heat Anchorage homes for over 50 years.

It’s unfortunate Ms. Epstein continues to lean on hyperbole in her attempts to stop offshore drilling. There are hard questions being asked of Shell (appropriately so) by regulators and stakeholders from Alaska’s coastal communities – all part of a dialogue that’s been taking place for years on this important topic. But organizations like the one Ms. Epstein represents have consistently proven they are not interested in these constructive forums.
Nor are they interested in the facts.

In list-like fashion, Ms. Epstein states that, “very few,” post-Macondo blowout findings have been implemented. Not true. [B]The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) have made significant changes to the requirements for offshore exploration. These include a new section on Safety and Environmental Management and new planning requirements.[/B]

The Bureaus have also issued numerous Notices to Lessees which incorporate learnings from Macondo. Ms. Epstein, as a member of BSEE’s Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee, should be aware of these changes – [B][I]including Shell’s commitment to a capping and containment system similar to the one that stopped the BP blowout.[/I][/B]

In her letter, Ms. Epstein claims not enough is known about the ecology of the Arctic. Not true. A 100-year compendium of scientific data proves the Alaskan Arctic is one of the most studied regions in modern history. The collection of new data will continue to be driven by industry’s interest in the region. Shell, alone, has dedicated more resources to Arctic science in the last five years than all Federal agencies combined.

Ms. Epstein labels as, “primitive,” the tools and techniques available for cleaning up oil in the Arctic. Again, Ms. Epstein has not done her homework. Oil in ice research has been ongoing for over 30-years and field trials prove there are several effective ways to recover oil in Arctic conditions. In addition to leading these research projects, [B][I]Shell has spent hundreds-of-millions ensuring that ice-capable vessels and Arctic-tested oil spill assets will be on-site in the extremely unlikely event they are needed. No other company has assembled the oil spill response assets that Shell has in Alaska. [/I][/B]

Ms. Epstein goes on to criticize Senators Begich and Murkowski – both of whom have taken time to question and learn about Shell’s Arctic capabilities. Both have advanced Alaska’s offshore agenda because they are engaged, demand operational excellence, and understand the need to find new energy and create new jobs for Americans.

In short, they are credible.

Ms. Epstein, and organizations like her’s, lack that credibility when they insinuate there could come a day when they would accept drilling in the Arctic. They will not. Not only have these groups litigated nearly every Shell permit, their reasoning for why Shell should not be allowed to proceed depends on the day.

Recently, Ms. Epstein signed-on to a letter that claims Shell should be denied Arctic air permits because emissions from our drilling rigs and oil spill response fleet will accelerate global warming. In a classic contradiction, Ms. Epstein appears to desire more oil spill response capability, but doesn’t want the engines on those vessels to actually be turned on. The truth is, Ms. Epstein’s goal is to stop Shell in the Arctic. Under no condition will she nor the environmental groups she associates with, [B][I]“be ready,” to drill in the Arctic.[/I][/B]

[B][I]Fortunately, we are[/I][/B].

This was released January 7th this year…more than 8 months ago! They weren’t ready then and they aren’t today.

The regulators are holding Shell’s feet to the fire and Slaiby gave them the ammunition in this piece to do just that.

[QUOTE=c.captain;78627]Everybody can be replaced![/QUOTE]

No truer words could ever be printed or said.

I was hoping that they would have a successful season, find a lot of oil, and start another economic boom in Alaska and offshore. Well there is always next year. At least they have kept a few boats and mariners busy mobilizing to Alaska for the second year in a row.

From Rigzone

LONDON - The short window for Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill exploratory wells off Alaska’s Arctic coast is rapidly narrowing as the company still hasn’t completed the retrofit of its vital oil spill response vessel or received final permits for its use.

Shell initially planned to begin exploration activities in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in July. However, the company said Wednesday that it is still working with U.S. officials on a schedule for inspections and deployment of the converted barge, the Arctic Challenger, which needs to be in place before drilling can start.

“Progress related to the final construction of the Arctic Challenger containment barge remains steady. We continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to outline a schedule for final inspections and an on-water deployment that would lead to certification,” a Shell spokesman in London said.

There’s no set timeline for the completion of the process, the spokesman added.

Shell has placed big bets on its controversial U.S. Arctic oil exploration plans and its success there is an important part of its quest to find new hydrocarbon reserves. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant has already spent more than $4 billion buying leases and equipment to drill in the Arctic, becoming the first company in several years to explore for oil there.

But the delays to the drilling program have highlighted the challenges oil companies face working in environmentally sensitive areas since BP PLC’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 prompted much greater scrutiny from regulators and environmental groups.

Shell has to wrap up drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea by September 24 and in the Beaufort Sea by the end of October. The deadlines are designed to create a buffer of time during which Shell can respond to any potential oil spills before ice moves in.

Last month, Shell said it was scaling back its summer U.S. Arctic drilling program and said it expected to complete only two of the five exploration wells it had originally planned. The company also plans to partially drill some wells that would be completed next year.

Wells in that area can take from 25 to 40 days to drill, although it’s hard to give a precise time due to the complexities of drilling in such an environment, the Shell spokesman said.

Shell’s oil-spill containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, is currently docked in Washington state and will take around 14 days to get into place.

[B]Shell’s drilling rigs–the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer–are on their way to sites in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from Dutch Harbor,[/B] Alaska to prepare for exploratory drilling, the company said.

Copyright © 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Have the rigs really left Dutch Harbor?

Official USCG report says the Disco did not ground.

Well as I said before you probably couldn’t slip a 2692 between the foot of that rudder and the mud.

[QUOTE=MasterMike;78799]Official USCG report says the Disco did not ground.[/QUOTE]

and what, pray tell, made you make this statement at this particular moment? This discussion was not about the NOBLE DISCOVERER but about the ARCTIC CHALLENGER! Did you even read it before posting? Seems to be a rather defensive thing to say suddenly like you just had to make sure the world knew that the USCG in Washington told the MSD in Dutch to not go there! Everybody who has ever run a vessel in or near Dutch Harbor knows in our own professional opinions that the DISCO did in fact ground. Just because the USCG official report says it didn’t doesn’t mean squat.

So what’s the deal? Please tell me that Captain Niedermeyer got shitcanned and frogmarched to the airport? Oh that would be so very sweet!

suddenly my signature quote seems so very perrrrfect!

[QUOTE=tugsailor;78684]Have the rigs really left Dutch Harbor?[/QUOTE]

Just checked MarineTraffic.com and DISCO is still in Broad Bay, but get this…they have deleted the vessel name from the AIS. Only the call sign indicated! Trying to hide from the world?

I have not found any news on ARCTIC CHALLENGER.

AIS puts NANUQ and Singapore flag tanker AFFINITY off Cape Lisburne.

AIS puts NOBLE DISCOVERER (anchored in Broad Bay), LAUREN FOSS (Broad Bay), and SISUAQ (anchored between the airport and Hog Island) still standing by in Dutch Harbor. I don’t think KULLIUK has AIS (at least I’ve never been able to find it).

Kulluk doesn’t, the disco has not used its name for awhile since it came to Seattle.

There still here…