"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison
Yes, the reports are true. Our 266-ft drilling barge containing over 140,000 gallons of diesel fuel has run aground in a highly sensitive ecosystem off the coast of southern Alaska.
But what is failure but a bump on the road to triumph?
In fact, we consider this an auspicious beginning to our 2013 Arctic adventure. Contrary to the numerous warnings by scientists, environmental activists, and people indigenous to the region, we take this recent occurrence as a sign that Shell is in the right place, doing the right thing. Nature has spoken, and it’s asking the Kulluk to stay a while longer.
Shell remains Arctic Ready!
Just why is the Alaskan coast so fond of the Kulluk? Let’s explore.
Built in 1983 by the Japanese Mitsui company, the Kulluk drilling platform is vintage, tried and tested technology that exemplifies the best of Shell's Let's Go! fleet. Among the Kulluk's exciting technologies are a 24-foot diameter glory hole bit for drilling deep in the ice, a 20,000-foot drill pipe, 160-foot derrick, 49.5-foot rotary table, 1000-hp top drive, 500-ton swivel, and a 400,000-pound drill string compensator!
Though the Kulluk is now almost 30 years old, she was inactive for fourteen of them, making her as reliable as a much younger craft.
The Kulluk is designed for safety, and has her own emergency rescue boat, two inflatable escape slides, four 54-person survival crafts, and an onboard hospital. She's also comfortable to work on, and has her own recreation room and sauna.
The Kulluk first came to Alaska in September 1988 when she drilled an exploratory well for the Amoco Production Company at the Belcher Prospect in the Beaufort Sea in 167 feet of water. (One of this year's wells will target depths over 12,000 feet!) In 1992 and 1993, she drilled four exploratory wells for Arco Alaska at the Kuvlum and Wild Weasel Prospects. After that, the Kulluk was stored for fourteen years in McKinley Bay near Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories of Canada. She was due to be sold for scrap before Shell rescued her for new glories.
The Kulluk has recently been upgraded with new electronics. Her hull has been fully repaired, making her as Arctic ready as it's possible for a rig to be! To celebrate the Kulluk's revival, we've also significantly improved the look of the vessel, with a keel-to-topmast repainting job. And to make life more pleasant for Arctic-going workers, we've remodelled some interiors.
No oil company has ever operated in an environment as extreme as the Arctic, let alone with heritage equipment—yet that's exactly the sort of challenge that makes the Arctic so appealing to Shell.
On the slight chance that something does go wrong, Shell's spill cleanup plan is second to none. No one has yet fully determined how to clean up an oil spill in pack ice or broken ice—but that too is exactly the sort of challenge we love.
*Please note that any suggestion, private or public, including Tweets, Facebook statuses, or articles, that this event may in any way be due to structural malfunction or puts the environment at even greater risk will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.