Kayaktivists block departing Shell Arctic rig

June 15, 2015

Thirteen activists in kayaks intercepted Shell's drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, in Seattle's Puget Sound as the rig prepared to depart for the Arctic as part of Shell's US$1 billion Arctic exploration and drilling program.

Kayaktivists protesting Shell as the Polar Pioneer tries to depart for the Arctic. Image from Greenpeace Flickr.

The Greenpeace US activists secured themselves together to block the Polar Pioneer’s departure while additional activists joined the protests on the water nearby.

Greenpeace is only a piece of the protest puzzle when it comes to entities that are against Shell or any other oil company drilling in the Arctic. Others include Earthjustice, which is representing 12 groups; sHellNO, Seattleites and more.

In May, the Obama administration approved Shell’s plan to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. Shell plans to use the Polar Pioneer to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic in less than two weeks from now.

Since that approval, both rigs Shell plans to use in the Arctic, the Polar Pioneer and Noble Drilling's Noble Discoverer, have failed routine inspections, Greenpeace said.  

However, according to Noble Drilling, that is not the case.

John Breed, Noble director of investor relations and corporate communication told OE that the Noble Discoverer has undergone significant repairs and refurbishing. Noble installed a new main engine and propulsion system.  All told, between 2010 and present, approximately $199 million has been expended on repairs and upgrades to the Noble Discoverer.  Noble’s investments in the Discoverer have resulted in a much better equipped vessel – with upgrades and improvements specifically designed to enhance environmental protection and operational integrity.  In addition to the improvements to the vessel, Noble has enhanced its training and compliance programs for its crew and its managers.  These changes apply not only to the Discoverer, but for the company’s global fleet, and has satisfied all current US Coast Guard concerns.

A photo of what the Noble Discoverer looks like today.
From Noble Drilling.

It is estimated by the US Geological Survey that the Arctic holds about 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas, as well as 13% of its oil and 22% of its natural gas liquids that are yet to be found, amounting to .around 400 billion boe, 10 times the total oil and gas produced in the North Sea to date.

“Shell wants to haul its 40,000-tonne Arctic destroyer to Alaska as soon as possible, but these courageous individuals are saying, ‘Shell No.’ Every minute that brave protesters can delay Shell’s Arctic drilling plans is another chance for President Obama to reconsider his disastrous approval of oil drilling in Alaska. The President’s decision on Arctic drilling will be a deal breaker for his climate legacy, but it’s not too late for him to stop this catastrophe before it starts,” Annie Leonard, Greenpeace executive director said.

In April, six Greenpeace activists intercepted the same oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750mi northwest of Hawaii and scaled the 40,000-tonne platform, occupying the rig for nearly a week.  Since then, Seattle has seen several activiists trying to stop the US supermajor's rigs from leaving the city for the Arctic, including a protest of several thousand people, 500 on kayaks.

In an environmental analysis, the Obama administration predicts a 75% chance of a major oil spill if all of the Chukchi Sea's oil is produced. Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to put an end to Shell’s drilling in the Arctic this summer.

Last week, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) approval of Shell’s oil spill response plan. On the same day (11 June), the first vessel for Shell’s $1 billion multi-year exploration Arctic program, the Arctic Challenger, departed Washington State for Alaskan waters.  

Read more:

Shell gains Court spill response approval

DOI, Shell get more Arctic backlash

BOEM approves Shell Arctic plan

Shell’s Arctic plan moves forward

US issues proposal on Arctic drilling regulations

Shell returning to the Arctic

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