Inspection of Shell drill rig Kulluk show fuel tanks intact

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Courtesy Shell

Nearly three weeks after Royal Dutch Shell's drilling rig grounded on a far-flung Alaska island, divers and others have completed gathering information on damage to the vessel, officials said Friday night.

The Kulluk, a floating rig that's been used in Shell's offshore oil and gas exploration in Alaska's Arctic, suffered damage "consistent with what is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground," according to Unified Command, a collection of agencies handling the response to the rig's grounding on Sitkalidak Island south of Kodiak on New Year’s Eve.

The fuel tanks are intact, but water did enter some spaces on the vessel through damaged hatches. "However, the water has been captured and is being safely stored in a compartment," Unified Command said in a news release.

Twelve divers and a remotely operated vehicle surveyed the Kulluk, which now sits in Kodiak Island's Kiliuda Bay after it was towed some 35 miles from nearby Sitkalidak Island. Workers are sealing windows and hatches where water got into the Kulluk, as well as adding tow brackets in "preparation for the next move," Unified Command says. The team of agencies adds:

    Multiple entities are involved in the review of data, including: the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas. These reports involve precise calculations; it is important to ensure the accuracy of any reports in order to develop the next steps for the Kulluk. At this time there is no firm date for completion of the damage assessment report.

      The Kulluk will remain in Kiliuda Bay until the Tanner crab fishery season, which started Wednesday, wraps up. Then it's headed to Seattle, where it originally was headed before it ran into problems in the Gulf of Alaska.