San Francisco: Shell Oil has tested emergency response equipment in case of a well blowout in Arctic waters, federal regulators revealed on Thursday.
The tests happened over two days – Tuesday and Wednesday – in waters offshore Washington.
Officials from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement oversaw the deployment of the equipment in waters slightly deeper than Shell’s proposed drilling sites in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska.
Tuesday’s tests focused on Shell’s capping stack, designed to sit on top of a damaged well and choke off flowing oil and gas. Federal regulators are requiring Shell to keep the capping stack in a ready-to-deploy state on the M/V Fennica (1,650 dwt, built 1993) so it can be swiftly mobilised in case of an accident.
The failure of a blowout preventer is largely blamed for the extent of the devastating explosion on the BP platform Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
On Wednesday, the BSEE officials oversaw pressure testing of the equipment that confirmed it could function properly under pressures that exceed those expected at Shell’s planned wells in the Arctic.
Shell is returning to Arctic drilling for the first time in three years and its buildup has been the target of an array of protests from environmentalists, especially when the fleet was mostly moored in Seattle over the past month.