The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) inspected Shell’s drilling rigs for its US$1 billion Arctic drilling program, the Noble Discoverer, Polar Pioneer and the Fennica icebreaker vessel in Alaska.
Pre-drill inspections on Shell's Arctic program drilling rigs.
Between 7-12 July, two BSEE inspectors reviewed drilling equipment, assessed overall readiness, and tested key safety devices onboard the vessels that are currently located in Dutch Harbor. They also verified Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) lease stipulations, environmental mitigation measures, and air quality equipment, as well as Environmental Protection Agency National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements, BSEE said.
Onboard the damaged Fennica icebreaker vessel, BSEE conducted a re-inspection of the capping stack, a key piece of well control equipment used to contain the flow of oil in the unlikely event of a blowout, that would be used only if there was a failure in all primary and backup blowout prevention equipment.
Upon inspections, BSEE concluded that the capping stack was not damaged during the 3 July incident, which impaired the Fennica’s underwater hull. The damage to the icebreaker vessel is requiring it to be returned to dry dock for repairs in Portland, Oregon.
According to a statement from Arctia Shipping, Fennica is due back in Alaskan waters for operations in late August, so drydocking in Portland has been chosen for its repairs. Fennica's hull suffered damage while traveling through charted waters on the Unalaska Bay Area with a certified Alaska marine harbor pilot onboard. A leak in one of her ballast tanks was later discovered.
BSEE says that if Shell’s drilling operations are permitted and begin, BSEE inspectors will be deployed on drilling rigs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing continuous oversight and monitoring once drilling operations commence.
Shell has seen its share setbacks and backlash for its Arctic program including several activist groups protesting the US supermajor for entering Arctic waters.