Saturday, August 01, 2015

Shell Ship Returns to Port

More:  Protestors in Portland, OR failed to stop the Fennica from putting to sea despite hanging by ropes from a 200 foot high span over the Columbia River.  Their acrobatics earned a ruling from an Alaskan federal judge that the international enviornmental protest organization Greenpeace will be fined $2500/hr for every hour the protestors blocked the ship from exiting.  Just to make her authority perfectly clear she warned the fine would jump to $5000/hr. on Friday, $7500/hr. on Saturday and $10,000/hr. on Sunday.  The ship left yesterday.  Her demostration leaves little doubt which side the federal government is on in this developing environmental disaster.  Greenpeace has faced these heavy-handed legal tactics before.  When Greenpeace protestors briefly boarded a Russian drilling platform in Arctic waters.  Russian special police raided the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and took 28 activists and the ship into custody. {18.11.15}  Months later the ship and the activists were released upon payment of €3.6m bond by the Netherlands.

Update: {25.07.15}The Fennica, a drilling support ship and ice breaker contracted to Royal Shell Oil, arrived at Swan Island in Portland, OR in the early morning Saturday for repairs to its hull. The ship apparently struck and underwater obstruction that gashed its hull upon leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska for operations in the Chukchi Sea. Portland activists say protests are planned as the icebreaker is repaired. Shell is limited to drilling only the top sections of its exploratory wells since the Fennica carries the capping equipment to be used in case of a blowout or other emergency. Current federal permits require that a capping stack be on site within twenty-four hours. A capping stack was the equipment that initially failed to seal off the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 which created the largest oil spill in US history. Critics of arctic drilling think the region's remoteness and adverse conditions will hamper any attempted clean up and therefore risk devastation of the Arctic's fragile environment.

{21.07.15}Shell's Arctic drilling operations suffered another setback when the Finnish vessel, Fennica, was forced to return to Dutch Harbor, Alaska earlier this month. A breach in the ship's hull was discovered. What caused the 39" by 2" crack is unknown. Whether the ship must be repaired in dry dock is also not determined, but the Fennica was to play a significant role in drilling Shell's Chukchi Sea [USGS photo] Burger Prospect leases, about 70 northwest of Wainwright village. Fennica carried a "capping stack" to be used to shut down a well in an emergency. Shell only has a brief three month period until September 28th to complete its controversial operations. Shell wants to drill two wells simultaneously, nine miles apart. That plan violates its authorization for incidental taking of marine mammals that allows simultaneous drilling only if the wells are a minimum of 15 miles apart. The limitation is to protect walruses and whales that live there. Critics of the government's backing of corporate exploitation of Arctic hydrocarbon deposits say a major oil spill will be an unmitigated disaster in the Arctic since it cannot be effectively cleaned up in the icy and stormy Arctic waters. Very little infrastructure exists in the region to support major clean up operations.  Burning Arctic oil and gas is also incompatible with expressed committment to reducing climate warming  Wildlife will certainly suffer in a spill predicted to be a 75% likelyhood by the government. The NRDC is expected to litigate the approval of Shell's operations in federal court.