Grounded offshore oil rig towed to Alaska harbor

Shell Kulluk oil rig

Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig has been towed to a harbor in Kiliuda Bay, off Alaska's Kokiak Island. The barge was towed after finally being freed from ground near Sitkalidak Island, an uninhabited island about 200 miles from Anchorage. The barge will remain in Kiliuda Bay for several days for damage inspection. Early reports say there are no signs of oil leaking from the vessel.

The Kulluk ran aground December 31st. The barge was being towed from the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska's North Slope, when it encountered a rough storm, forcing tugboats to cut towlines. The rig had been evacuated a day previously, as the storm grew more intense.

Once grounded, the rig remained stuck for six days before finally being floated free. During it’s subsequent tow to harbor, the vessel was accompanied by an oil spill response unit. The Kulluk has as much as 150,000 gallons of diesel onboard.

The grounding is the latest mishap in a rough year of Arctic drilling for Shell. Numerous setbacks have plagued the company’s drilling program in the region, which despite its $2 billion price tag, has only seen the start of two exploratory wells.

For more on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, head over to PennEnergy’s Research Area for comprehensive reports.

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