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Pollution Controls Fail on Shell’s Arctic Drill Ship—in Honolulu

Days before the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved Shell’s exploratory drilling program in the Chukchi Sea, Vice News was reporting a repeat failure with pollution control equipment onboard the company’s drill ship—while it was still undergoing testing in Honolulu.

“The Coast Guard held the Noble Discoverer in Honolulu for a day until engineers could repair the device that separates oil from the water in the ship’s bilges,” Vice reports, citing a Coast Guard spokesperson. “The April 23 inspection occurred less than five months after vessel owner Noble Drilling pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges and paid $12.2 million in fines, partly for dumping oily water overboard when the same machine didn’t work.”

Greenpeace’s Travis Nichols said the failure didn’t bode well for an Arctic voyage. “Noble had problems with the oil water separator in 2012 which led them to plead guilty to environmental and maritime crimes — felonies,” he said.

Vice notes that “Shell is proceeding with Arctic exploration plans despite sharply reduced oil prices that have led other companies to put similar projects on ice.” Shell’s Curtis Smith said the company still expects to feed long-term demand for oil. “It’s widely accepted that global demand for energy will double by the year 2050,” he wrote. “So, we’ll need energy in all forms, and Alaska’s outer continental shelf resources could play a crucial role in helping meet that energy challenge.”