The grounded Shell Exploration drilling rig Kulluk appears to be withstanding the elements as it sits grounded on Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak. Officials from the unified command say it has remained stable on the sand and gravel beach, and no fuel spill has been observed.
The Kulluk is a massive drilling unit, designed
specifically for operations in Arctic waters. With a diameter of
266-feet and a draft of 41 feet, it can almost be described as a
floating island with a drilling platform atop it
It was being
towed from Unalaska back to Seattle after spending part of the summer in
the Beaufort Sea, exploring for oil and gas. When its tug, the Aiviq, experienced engine problems in high seas southwest of Kodiak
Island on Friday, the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley and two other
private ships, the Nanuq and the Guardsman, responded. At various times
during the four-day storm, hurricane-force winds snapped the tow lines
from all four ships, eventually leading to the Kulluk’s grounding on New
Commander Shane Montoya, the federal on-scene
coordinator, said during a briefing on New Year’s Day the tow ships
tried to direct the Kulluk to a position that might minimize the impact
to the environment and damage to the rig.
-- (Kulluk 1 27 sec “They were just trying to maintain … when it did go aground.”)
The Kulluk carries 136,240-gallons of diesel fuel and over 10,000
gallons of various lubes and oils. No “drilling mud” is reported to be
The area of the grounding on Sitkalidak (sitka
leed’ick) Island is described as critical habitat for endangered Steller
sea lions and the Kittlitz's Murrelet, and is near a number of salmon
streams. Steven Russell of the Alaska Department of Environmental
Conservation says the Unified Command will keep a close eye on the area
for several months.
-- (Kulluk 2b 25 sec “Potential impacts to wildlife … they may have to this area.”)
Oil spill response equipment from Alaska Chadux (shadow) Corporation
was staged on the Kodiak waterfront in preparation for transfer the 75
miles to nearby Old Harbor. Shell’s Shawn Churchfield says salvage crews
are ready to fly out to the Kulluk pending favorable weather.
-- (Kulluk 3 41 sec “The unified command’s plan … the situation under control.”)
However, Shell’s Susan Childs says it may take weeks or months to
determine the sequence of mishaps that led to the grounding.
In Kodiak, I’m Jay Barrett.