Rigs set sail for the Arctic

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Noble-Discoverer-05 17 12-007JUNE 28, 2012—Destined to support Shell’s drilling efforts in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the semi-submersible Kulluk and drillship Noble Discoverer recently set sail for the Arctic from Vigor Industrial’s Seattle, WA, shipyard, following the completion of extensive environmental and safety upgrades.

“It is impossible to overstate the pride Vigor Marine teams have felt working on these critical rigs,” said Liz Ugorcak, Senior Director of Ship Repair at Vigor Marine, a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial. “Everything down to the smallest detail is centered on protecting the environment. Ensuring safety at all levels was our primary focus.”

Shell has about 50 years of active experience of operating in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Alaska and Canada. It acquired 179 exploration licenses in the Beaufort Sea in 2005 and 275 licenses in the Chukchi Sea in 2008. It is estimated that the Beaufort Sea alone could contain 8.2 billion barrels of oil and 27.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

Of chief concern for the rigs were the environmental upgrades. Measuring 266 ft x 230 ft, the ice-classed semi-submersible drill rig Kulluk first arrived at Vigor’s Seattle yard in July 2011. Following the work done by Vigor Marine, it will operate with zero discharge in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Everything down to the sink water will be captured and stored. The rig’s blue and white paint scheme was chosen because it is whale friendly.

The same care was taken with Noble Drilling’s Noble Discoverer, a 512 ft x 86 ft ice-classed drill ship. The Discoverer arrived this April to undergo winterization and similar environmental upgrades. Vigor Marine mobilized a team of more than 500 skilled, quality-focused workers to complete upgrades which would normally take up to 6 months in just 10 weeks. In-house engineers worked closely with naval architects to accommodate additional requirements.

Vigor teams installed six EPODS, one on each engine. The 7 ft x 20 ft EPODs perform like catalytic converters in automobiles, capturing harmful discharges like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. The Discoverer’s emissions now meet the highest air quality standards in the world.

“Vigor’s work on the Kulluk and Discoverer has been outstanding,” said Curtis Smith, spokesperson for Shell Alaska. “Vigor’s capacity to provide the highest levels of quality work within our timeframe is impressive and continues to make them a valued partner in Shell’s Alaskan offshore operations.” The Kulluk and Discoverer are the latest in a series of vessels Vigor Marine has completed work on for Shell Alaska, including the Barge Klamath and Arctic Challenger, both OSRVs.

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