WASHINGTON – The Coast Guard has found serious safety and environmental violations on a Shell drilling rig used in the Arctic waters off Alaska, another blow to the company’s controversial bid to harvest oil in the petroleum-rich but sensitive region.
The Coast Guard said Friday that it has turned over the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice, which had no comment.
The Coast Guard found 16 violations on the Noble Discoverer, one of Shell’s two drilling rigs for Alaska’s Arctic waters. The company’s other rig, the Kulluk, has its own troubles. The Kulluk broke free from towlines during a New Year’s Eve storm and was grounded for several days off Kodiak Island.
Details of the Noble Discoverer’s violations were obtained by Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, which had asked the Coast Guard for an accounting of inspections that took place on the rig at the end of November.
The Coast Guard found the Noble Discoverer could not go fast enough to safely maneuver on its own in all the expected conditions found in Alaska’s Arctic waters. The Coast Guard also found “systematic failure and lack of main engine preventative maintenance,” which caused a propulsion loss and exhaust system explosion.
Among other issues listed were inoperable equipment used to measure the oil in water that is dumped overboard, improper line splices throughout the engine room, piston cooling water contaminated with sludge, and an abnormal propeller shaft vibration.
A spokesman for Noble Corp. did not return a message Friday asking about the violations.