Page 86


Shell’s Extensive Arctic Logistics Keeping vessels, crews, and the ocean safe By Mike Bradner


hell’s planning for its summer 2015 Chukchi Sea exploration drilling involves an extensive logistics exercise involving as many at twenty-nine vessels, including two large mobile offshore drilling structures, the drillship Noble Discoverer, and the semi-submersible Polar Pioneer. The other twenty-seven vessels will be engaged in support activity. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave tentative approval to Shell’s exploration plan April 11. A major concern for Shell, however, is keeping the vessels and crews safe from harassment by Greenpeace, an environmental organization that has said it will attempt to disrupt the company’s exploration activities. Six Greenpeace activists boarded a Shellchartered vessel in the mid-Pacific this spring but quit the ship as it approached US waters. A restraining order against Greenpeace has been issued by a US District Court in Anchorage, but Shell is still wary. One of Shell’s drill vessels is the Noble Discoverer, owned by Noble Drilling Co., which conducted drilling for Shell in the Chukchi Sea and drilled a partially-complete exploration well, which was planned. The Discoverer encountered engine problems late in the season and has undergone extensive refitting. The other drill vessel is the Polar Pioneer, owned by Transocean Ltd., a harsh-weather offshore rig that has spent several years drilling in the Norwegian Arctic.

High Seas Bandits

Earlier this year both the Noble Discoverer and the Polar Pioneer underwent operations “shakedowns” in Southeast Asia before being brought to North America. Both vessels left Malaysia in March for Puget Sound, with the Polar Pioneer loaded atop the Blue Marlin, a large “heavy-lift” ship. An event that occurred during the Blue Marlin’s transit was its boarding by six Green86

© Shell

Shell’s Noble Discoverer. peace activists in mid-ocean, when the vessel and rig were about seven hundred miles northwest of Hawaii. The activists climbed up into the Polar Pioneer and remained there until the Blue Marlin approached US territorial waters. Greenpeace’s people, including one employee of the organization along with five volunteers, left the rig just before a US District Court in Anchorage had issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the environmental organization. Prior to sailing for the Arctic, many of the vessels supporting the drilling underwent conversions and installation of equipment specific to the Arctic drilling mission. The crews underwent training also, and prior to sailing many of the vessels took on supplies and fuel.

Arctic Support Fleet

Once in the Arctic, both drilling vessels will be supported by a small fleet of support ships. Shell described the operation in affidavits submitted to the federal court for the injunction hearing: The schedule calls for the Polar Pioneer, Noble Discoverer, and the supporting vessels to pass through the Bering Strait about July 1 and then onward to the “Burger” prospect in the Chukchi Sea as soon as

weather and ice conditions allow. Exploration should continue through October 31. “These vessels will be used for ice management, anchor handling, refueling, resupply, water sample connection, and oil spill response in the unlikely event it is necessary. The vessels Tor Viking, Aiviq, and Ross Chouest will be engaged in anchor handling and deployment, while the Harvey Explorer will be performing monitoring of drilling fluids that are discharged,” according to Shell’s affidavit filed with the federal court. Two vessels, the Nordica and Fennica, will be available for ice management. Oil spill response vessels, with several attendant workboats, containment boom, and recovery equipment, will be in the project area when drilling into subsurface liquid hydrocarbon-bearing formations. These will include the Nanuq, Arctic Endeavor, Klamath, and Arctic Challenger, which will be immediately available to perform oil spill response and containment. These vessels will either be close to the rigs as necessitated by their response time or in Kotzebue Sound. The Arctic Containment System is intended to be located in Kotzebue Sound throughout the drilling season. Aviation operations, based in Anchorage

Safety Zones US Coast Guard Existing Regulations 500 Meters 547 yards 0.27 nautical miles 0.31 miles

Shell Requested Exclusion Zones Vessels In Motion Drill Vessels 1,000 meter 1,500 meters 1,093 yards 1,640 yards 0.54 nautical miles 0.81 nautical miles 0.62 miles 0.93 miles

Alaska Business Monthly | June

Alaska Business Monthly June 2015  

Ravn Alaska CEO Bob Hajdukovich on the tarmac in front of the company’s hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The company’s...

Alaska Business Monthly June 2015  

Ravn Alaska CEO Bob Hajdukovich on the tarmac in front of the company’s hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The company’s...