U.S. to investigate Shell's arctic program

Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:37 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Interior Department and U.S. Coast Guard announced they were conducting separate investigations into the grounding of Shell's drill ship Kulluk.

Shell towed the Kulluk to a harbor in Alaska this week. The vessel struck ground during rough weather in late December while en route to Seattle. No oil spill or injuries were associated with the incident.

The company last year received approval to work in the arctic waters off the northern Alaska coast. Extreme weather conditions and a series of equipment issues complicated the company's exploration campaign, however.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a 60-day investigation would examine the certification of spill containment vessel Arctic Challenger, issues with the deployment of a spill containment dome and operational problems with drilling rigs like Kulluk.

The review will be conducted by Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

"As part of our department's oversight responsibilities, our review will look at Shell's management and operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas," Beaudreau said in a statement. "We will assess Shell's performance in the arctic's challenging environment."

The Coast Guard said it would work with the National Transportation Safety Board on its investigation into Kulluk's grounding.

Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum, in a statement this week, said the company is "very sorry" for the incident.

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