Shell, USCG ready to move Kulluk off Sitkalidak Island, Alas.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC and the US Coast Guard attached a towing line to the grounded Kullek, a conical drilling unit, and planned to move it away from the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island, Alas., when weather permits.

The Kulluk broke loose while being towed and grounded on Dec. 31, 2012, in heavy seas while it was en route from Alaska to Seattle for maintenance work. On the afternoon of Jan. 6, salvage crews attached a towline and awaited an opportune time to move the drilling unit, Shell said.

Shell owns the unit, which is managed by Noble Corp. (OGJ Online, Jan. 2, 2012).

Plans called for the drilling unit initially to be moved about 30 miles to Kiliuda Bay for assessment. Last year, Shell used the drilling unit for Arctic drilling off Alaska.

No deaths or significant injuries resulted from the Kulluk’s grounding, which Shell calls a maritime transit incident and not a drilling incident. None of the 139,000 gal of diesel on the Kulluk appears to have spilled, USCG reported after repeatedly flying over the Kulluk.

Shell said some damage resulted above the deck, and seawater entered through open hatches, knocking out the Kulluk’s regular and emergency generators. Salvage crews put portable generators onboard.

More than 600 people are involved in response efforts, which are managed by USCG.

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

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