Grounded Shell Oil drill barge afloat and being towed


Grounded Shell Oil drill barge the Kulluk is now afloat and close to reaching in tow its new destination of Kiliuda Bay near Kodiak Island, Alaska, Coast Guard, Shell Oil and governmental officials announced Jan. 7.

The 266-foot barge ran aground Dec. 31 on uninhabited Sitkalidak Island as it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance in stormy weather after spending the previous months as one of two first Shell Oil drilling platforms to be deployed to the Arctic. Eighteen crew members evacuated the barge with Coast Guard helicopters with no casualties.

Delays in readying an oil spill containment vessel in time for the drilling season prevented Shell from penetrating hydrocarbon zones in the Arctic; the barge's grounding could call even further into question deep-sea drilling in the area.

The barge, which contains 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube and hydraulic fluid, did not capsize. Shell officials have said there is no evidence of any sheen in the area where the barge ran aground and that its tanks appear to be intact. A Coast Guard overflight of the area is scheduled, weather permitting.

Towing the barge is the Aiviq, the same ship that was towing the Kulluk on Dec. 31; the ship reportedly lost engine power.

A coalition of 54 House Democrats called Jan. 3 for a federal investigation into the incident, calling it the "latest in a series of alarming blunders, including the near grounding of another of Shell's Arctic drilling rigs, the 47-year-old Noble Discoverer, in Dutch Harbor and the failure of its blowout containment dome, the Arctic Challenger, in lake-like conditions."

For more:
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