Icebreaker breach could delay Shell’s Arctic drilling timetable

Icebreaker breach could delay Shell’s Arctic drilling timetable

San Francisco: Hull damage to an icebreaker vessel in Shell’s Arctic fleet could throw a spanner in the works for the firm’s Arctic oil-drilling plans.

Shell had been on a schedule to start drilling by the third week of July, contingent on minor conditions being met to satisfy US government requirements.

But now the Finnish icebreaker and supply vessel Fennica (4,800 dwt, built 1993) has incurred a small breach which forced it to return to Dutch Harbour in Alaska for repairs.

The Fennica had been en route from Dutch Harbour to the drilling field area in the Chukchi Sea when a ballast tank leak was discovered by crew members and a certified Alaska marine harbour pilot on board the vessel. It was traced back to a gash about 39 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Shell’s plans to resume Arctic drilling after a three-year absence and it fleet for that purpose comprises 29 vessels but at this moment Fennica may be the most important as it is carrying a critical piece of equipment – a capping stack designed to fit on top of a damaged well in case of a blowout or other emergency.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.

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