Shell executives sent a 12-page letter to the MMS assuring that planned operations in Alaska would be vastly more safe than the BP’s Deepwater Horizon.
Greenpeace seized on the letter and released a point-by-point rebuttal.
Greenpeace cites past documents from Shell that discount the possibility of a faulty blowout preventer. Also, Shell’s Frontier Discoverer is 44 years old:
Shell is scrambling to show that its plans are nothing like BP’s, but it cannot paper over the information contained in its 2010 Exploration Plan for the Chukchi Sea, which states, “a large oil spill, such as a crude oil release from a blowout, is extremely rare and not considered a reasonably foreseeable impact.” Shell dismissed the risk of a blowout, just as BP’s 2009 Exploration Plan downplayed the possibility of a catastrophic accident with the Deepwater Horizon, suggesting that it was unlikely, or virtually impossible, for an accident to occur. Shell claims that a Deepwater Horizon-type blowout would not occur in the Arctic Ocean because the exploration wells will be drilled in shallow water. However, on May 11 the former head of regulatory affairs at the U.S. Minerals Management Service – the agency with oversight for offshore drilling—testified before the U.S. Senate on blowout occurrence rates and causes, saying that “well control performance for deepwater drilling was significantly better than for shallow water operations.” Despite what Shell says, the risk of a blowout is higher in the shallow waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was built in 2001, was state-of the-art and heralded as ushering in a new era of exploratory drilling. In contrast, Shell will use the drillship Frontier Discoverer for exploratory drilling in Alaska this summer. The ship was built in 1966, when Lyndon Johnson was President.
In case you forgot, Alaska drilling is the real long-standing energy controversy.
The Frontier Discoverer was cleared to drilling as soon as July, before Ken Salazar suspended all drilling for a month.
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Disclosure: The author owns shares in BP and Transocean.
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