Recovery team boards drilling unit grounded offshore Alaska

A team of salvage experts boarded the grounded offshore conical drilling unit Kulluk Jan. 2 to assess its structural integrity and to finalize salvage plans being developed by the Kulluk Tow Incident Unified Command, said Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which owns the Kulluk.

The Kulluk broke free while being towed in heavy seas and ran aground on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island, Alas., on Dec. 31, 2012, while on its way to Seattle. The unit is managed by Noble Corp. (OGJ Online, Jan. 2, 2012).

The Kulluk arctic floating drilling platform is shaped like a large, conical donut (see drawing, OGJ, Oct. 1, 2007, p. 40).

A US Coast Guard helicopter lowered the team to the Kulluk, which remains upright. The assessment lasted about 3 hr, and the team was hoisted safely off the drilling unit.

USCG also delivered a state-owned emergency towing system to the Kulluk, and the emergency towing system is expected to be used during recovery operations. Smit Salvage is directing recovery operations. Previously, USCG reported no signs of any fuel leaks. The Kulluk is holding 139,000 gal of diesel.

Earlier severe weather delayed efforts for put a team on the Kulluk. Shell and the Incident Unified Command are posting updates along with a video to a web site.

US Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), wrote to Shell and USGC requesting information on the ongoing incident. Markey, who is on the House Natural Resources Committee, requested more information on how Shell plans to address the incident as well as its ongoing plans to drill safely offshore in the severe weather of the Arctic. Previously, Shell noted the Kulluk incident was a transportation mishap and not a drilling incident.

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