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Oil rig starts new beginning in Alaska's Cook Inlet

Naomi KloudaHomer Tribune

Now that the jackup rig Endeavour has moved from the Homer Deep Water Dock, its owners must demonstrate its blowout defense system works after repairs and installation are complete. Buccaneer Energy, owner of the rig, held the goal of getting to the Cosmopolitan site off Anchor Point in order to make these installations. It could not be done at the Homer dock where it remained tied for seven months.

“They are getting the rig trimmed out, ready to go. We’ll go when they get it ready to demonstrate it is doing what it’s supposed to do,” said Cathy Forester, chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Buccaneer Energy received the certificate of compliance from the U.S. Coast Guard last week just prior to its move. This certifies the rig is able to operate safely within United States waters. But to commence operations within Cook Inlet, the Endeavour rig must be inspected and certified by the AOGCC.

Dean Gallegos, Buccaneer director, outlines the timeline as preparing for the this next level of approval from AOGCC’s visit to the rig. AOGCC will return “when the pressure control systems have been fully re-activated, which can only be completed once the Endeavour is at the Cosmopolitan location,” Gallegos said.

That’s the agency that certifies the rig’s drilling equipment is suitable for drilling projects. The drilling equipment, including blowout preventers, pumps, kick detection and other well control items are critical to operate safely within Alaskan state waters.

The AOGCC conducted preliminary inspections last week and did not raise any specific points of concern, Gallegos said. “Final drawings and equipment certifications are being obtained and a final AOGCC inspection is expected.”

Forest said she wouldn’t describe the visit as an inspection at all, but a visit to “gain a lay of the land,” so to speak.

The visit "was just preliminary information for our part, so we would know what equipment is onboard. We left a list, but it was not an inspection,” Forester said. “The critical equipment wasn’t on board, or was not yet installed or not in operation. This was a visit to get the lay of the land. When they are in place and ready to operate, they will let us know and we’ll send an inspector out. Either he, or they, will do a thorough inspection of all equipment that we are interested in and the safety devices.”

The AOGCC’s focus is on drilling safety systems and in particular pressure control systems that operate while drilling, such as mud systems and blowout preventers. A broken pressure system caused the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill.

The Endeavour contains a renewed mud system and has totally refurbished blowout preventers, Gallegos said. Next stop after gaining the AOGCC’s OK is final approval on its C-Plan by Department of Natural Resources.

Though Buccaneer remains knotted in a lawsuit filed by Archer Drilling over billing disputes, at least one aspect of the delay was circumvented in recent weeks.

According to its director’s report in the semi-annual report to shareholders, Buccaneer “has reproduced and gained access to the technical drawings and inspection certifications that were completed during the shipyard work in Singapore and Homer to allow the USCG inspections to proceed, without the assistance of the previous project manager Archer Drilling LLC.”

West Eagle Prospect

The Department of Environmental Conservation is now in the public testimony period through April 24 to hear concerns and comments on Buccaneer’s West Eagle prospect 20 miles out East End Road. This is a chance for the public to request additional information as well, said DEC’s Laurie Silfven.

A copy of the review material is located at Homer City Hall, at Cook Inletkeeper and by request for an electronic copy. Write to Laurie.Silfven@alaska.gov or call (907) 269-7540 for a copy. This portion deals with Bucanner’s on-land oil discharge and spill contingency plan or C-Plan as an amendment to the exploration drilling plan.

This story first appeared in the Homer Tribune.