Shell criticised for limited testing of Alaska drilling containment equipment
Source: The Guardian
Shell has been accused of "stock-car racing recklessness" after apparently undertaking only the most limited testing of a key piece of equipment aimed at preventing a Gulf of Mexico-style blowout during its controversial drilling in the Arctic.
Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest field-testing of a containment dome took place over two hours on 25 and 26 June. The dome, known as a "capping stack", would be dropped over any stricken wellhead.
Two officials from the bureau of safety and environmental enforcement (BSSE) – an arm of the US interior department – were present with Shell officials at the tests in Puget Sound, Alaska, but there was no independent verification of the tests.
Shell reportedly started work yesterday on the $4.5bn (£2.8bn) drilling programme in the Chukchi Sea, 70 miles off Alaska's north-west coast. It does not yet have permission to drill into oil reserves.
If you look at the regulations for oil spill response equipment for vessels and facilities it doesn't take much common sense to see the major flaws. They are allowed an hour for initial response even in areas where the current runs 3+ knots. By the time they can deploy the equipment a huge slug of oil is already gone (I've watched these exercises).