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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Amazing photos of Kulluk and hubristic Shell oil rig ships

On New Year's Eve, a Royal Dutch Shell drilling ship ran aground near Kodiak Island in Alaska, the latest mishap in the oil giant's offshore drilling program in the 49th state.
The Kulluk -- a $290 million offshore oil rig operated as part of Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts in summer -- washed up shortly before 9 p.m. Monday at Ocean Bay onSitkalidak Island, located close to Kodiak Island's southeast shore.
The trouble started late Monday afternoon when a Shell tugboat -- one of two vessels pulling the Kulluk -- lost a line to the drilling rig. The second tug, the Alert, struggled to continue towing the Kulluk due to "severe engine problems." The Alert's crew was ordered to separate from the rig at 8:10 p.m. "to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the vessel," according to state environmental regulators and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Kulluk was loaded with 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

READ MORE: Shell-shocked: Is grounded drilling ship in Alaska leaking fuel?

It's been a tumultuous several days for the Kulluk, which saw itself disconnected from the tug boats charged with moving the vessel from Alaska to the Lower 48 for the winter. Earlier this year, the Kulluk performed exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea for Shell.
For Shell, which has invested more than $4.5 billion to drill for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic, the latest troubles raise questions about how prepared the company -- as well as the Coast Guard -- are for problems in the far north.
The Kulluk and its tug weren't operating above the Arctic Circle when the problems started late last week. And the Coast Guard's Alaska headquarters at Kodiak are located relatively nearby the grounded Kulluk, making response efforts easier than in the Arctic, where the agency has no base.
That has some Alaskans wondering what would happen if similar troubles ever occur in the much more remote and hostile Arctic Ocean.

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