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The headline in the Los Angeles Times says it all: Salazar on Arctic drilling: 'Shell screwed up in 2012'. The story tells us what we already know. Royal Dutch Shell fought for approval to drill off the Alaska coast, promising to take every precaution in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. Mishap then followed mishap. Probably the only reason there was not oil all over the Arctic was that they never managed to finish drilling a well.

Interior Secretary Salazar's comments are instructive.

“Shell screwed up in 2012, and we’re not going to let them screw up whenever they [resume] … unless they have these systems in place,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said after a new report found that Shell’s contractors were repeatedly ill-prepared to meet the demands of operating in the harsh Arctic environment.

“Before Shell is allowed to move forward, they’re going to have to show to the Department of Interior that they have met the standards that have been required,” Salazar said.

One has to wonder why Shell was allowed to proceed with drilling in 2012 if these fail-safe systems were not already in place. Salazar's comments suggest that Shell had a plan but its wild and crazy contractors did not follow it. Theoretically, BP had a plan to cap a well leak in 5000 feet of warm water, but I digress.

The story goes on to say that the only thing Shell did right was forecast dangerous ice floe development. Shell (or their contractors) did nearly everything else wrong. Fascinating.

Salazar ordered a formal review of Shell's incompetence in the Arctic in January. The final report was released on March 8. It is well worth a look if you have the stomach for it.

This review has confirmed that Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans. The lack of adequate preparation put pressure on Shell’s overall operations and timelines at the end of the drilling season. Indeed, because Shell was unable to get certified and then deploy its specialized Arctic Containment System (ACS) – which the Department of the Interior (DOI) required to be on site in the event of a loss of well control – the company was not allowed to drill into hydrocarbon-bearing zones. Shell’s failure to deploy the ACS system was due, in turn, to shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors. Likewise, additional problems encountered by Shell – including significant violations identified during United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) inspection of the Noble Discoverer drilling rig in Seward last November, the lost tow and grounding of the Kulluk rig near Kodiak Island in late December, and violations of air emission permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – also indicate serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore of Alaska.
The report has two requirements before Shell will be allowed to resume drilling the Arctic. The company must: (1) develop a "comprehensive and integrated operational plan," and (2) commission an independent review of its management and safety systems. Those requirements suggest that Shell did not have a plan or the required systems in place. Pointing the finger at the contractors in the media provides cover for the company and government regulators.

The report also indicates that "industry and government must develop an Arctic-specific model for offshore oil and gas exploration in Alaska." That sounds like no one was prepared for drilling in Arctic.

Here is some truly prize-worthy double-speak:

The United States is at the forefront in evaluating the economic and energy potential of safe and environmentally responsible offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic, as well as the multitude of challenges facing the region, including the consequences of rapid climate change. It is essential that the United States understand the resource potential of the Arctic, and offshore oil and gas exploration has a role in developing that understanding. However, exploration must be conducted cautiously, safely, and responsibly in relation to the sensitive Arctic environment and the Alaska Natives who are closely connected to the Arctic Ocean for subsistence and fundamental aspects of their culture and traditions.
A report documenting industry incompetence and lax government oversight claims to be at the forefront of environmentally responsible development of the Arctic. The report contains 19 pages of detailed evidence of Shell's incompetence and failure to meet permit standards (see pages 16-34). The consequences for Shell are dire: a harshly worded report, tongue lashing in the press, and a carefully choreographed dance of contrition before being allowed back in to drill next year.

Now, about that "rapid climate change." I wonder if we will ever see a comprehensive plan to deal with that problem. It's a good thing this climate change has nothing to do with the hydrocarbons these idiots in industry and government so desperately want.

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Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 08:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by Gulf Watchers Group.

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