EPA says Shell's Alaska drilling units violated air permits

The US Environmental Protection Agency has said Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s Kulluk conical drilling unit and the Noble Discoverer drillship, under contract to the Anglo-Dutch multinational firm, violated numerous conditions of air-quality permits while drilling off Alaska during 2012.

EPA’s complaint, outlined in two separate letters dated Jan. 10, said Shell failed to properly monitor air emissions as required by permits issued under the Clean Air Act. In addition, EPA said drilling units exceeded nitrogen-oxide emissions limits and other emissions limits.

Each violation could carry a fine of up to $37,500/day.

The Kulluk ran aground on the uninhabited Sitkalidak Island south of Alaska on Dec. 31, 2012, while being towed to Seattle for maintenance. On Jan. 7, Shell towed the Kulluk to Kodiak Island's Kiliuda Bay where damages are being assessed (OGJ Online, Jan. 7, 2013).

Shell used the Kulluk for drilling in the Beaufort Sea and used the Discoverer for drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

“We have made every effort to meet the permit conditions established by the EPA for offshore Alaska, and we continue to work with the agency to establish conditions that can be realistically achieved,” Shell said in an e-mail to OGJ.

“We are working with the EPA on the path forward for 2013, as we have already proposed necessary permit revisions as a result of ongoing conversations with the agency. We remain committed to minimizing the environmental footprint of our Arctic offshore operations,” Shell said.

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