VIDEO: Shell’s Kulluk Drilling Unit Runs Adrift in High Seas Off Alaska

Shell's Kulluk Drilling Unit Runs Adrift in High Seas Off Alaska

MV Aiviq, a 360-foot towing vessel, on Thursday lost connection to the Shell-operated Kulluk drilling unit in heavy seas in the Gulf of Alaska, casting the drilling unit adrift.

The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures, prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. In response to the incident the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) deployed cutters and aircraft while Royal Dutch Shell dispatched Guardsman and the Nanuq tugs.

Weather on scene was reported as 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas.

In a statement issued December 29, Shell said:“MV Aiviq experienced a loss of power to its main propulsion engines as it was towing the Kulluk Conical Drilling Unit (CDU) roughly 50 miles off the coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska. The use of power generators allowed the Aiviq to avoid significant drift with the Kulluk in tow.“

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A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew hoists personnel from the mobile offshore drilling unit Kulluk more than 100 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska, Dec. 29, 2012.  U.S. Coast Guard video by Air Station Kodiak.

Crew Evac

After a call by Shell at approximately 9 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard evacuated the Kulluk personnel to ensure the safety of the crew during the ongoing response in the Gulf of Alaska.

The evacuation attempts had been unsuccessful at first. The USCG helicopters were unable to hoist the crew because the 50 mph winds and 20 foot seas were causing the Kulluk to pitch and roll to such a degree that hoisting the personnel was too dangerous. According to Shell, 18 crew members were eventually successfully airlifted to safety.

Crew members of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk arrived safely at Air Station Kodiak after being airlifted by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the vessel 80 miles southwest of Kodiak, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.

Crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk arrive safely at Air Station Kodiak after being airlifted by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the vessel 80 miles southwest of Kodiak, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. A total of 18 crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit were airlifted to safety after they suffered issues and setbacks with the tug and tow. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Photo by USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Aiviq Repaired

The USCG also delivered engine parts to the crew of the support vessel Aiviq, in 30 mph winds and 20-foot seas.

The crew of the Aiviq was able to successfully make repairs to the ships’ damaged engine with the Coast Guard delivered parts and were able to keep the Kulluk from drifting closer to shoal waters, the USCG informed.

The Coast Guard, Royal Dutch Shell, State, federal, and local officials in Kodiak have stood up a unified command to be prepared in case any of the vessels run aground and potentially release any fuel.

Anchor dropped

As a precautionary measure Unified Command authorized crew members of the Kulluk to drop its anchor off the coast of Kodiak.  This tactic is used to slow the drift of the Kulluk and minimize potential impact to personnel and the environment.

The Aiviq and Guardsman, as an additional precautionary measure, were still connected to the Kulluk during the time of the anchor deployment.
Teams are currently evaluating the trajectory of the Kulluk drift and impact of the anchor deployment.

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Offshore Energy Today Staff, December 30, 2012

 

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