Arctic offshore-drilling rig headed here; SBX to (temporarily) move

(June 24 WSB photo of SBX, taken from Jack Block Park)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s dominated the Harbor Island view for two months, and while it’s not scheduled to leave Vigor (formerly Todd) Shipyard for another month or so, you will see the SBX (military Sea-Based X-Band missile-detecting radar, aka “that thing that looks like a giant golf/ping-pong ball”) move around a bit this week.

That’s because, according to a marine-industry advisory obtained by WSB, a floating offshore-oil-drilling platform is coming into the shipyard, so SBX must move temporarily while the drilling rig is maneuvered into place. That rig is a story unto itself:

(2010 photo of Kulluk by Flickr member Anyaku2419)
It’s “an Arctic-class drill ship” called the Kulluk, owned by Shell, which is getting it into shape in hopes of obtaining Arctic offshore-drilling permits that, according to reports like this, it’s been trying to get for six years.

The 1983-built Kulluk had been idle for more than a decade, after years of Arctic drilling, before being reactivated; it has most recently been based in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and left there July 1st for the journey here.

According to the advisory about Kulluk’s arrival and SBX’s temporary move, Shell is expected to issue a news release about the Kulluk sometime today. As of very early this morning, showed its accompanying tugs – Kulluk itself was not providing a signal – in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and it’s expected in Elliott Bay by Tuesday morning.

Meantime, SBX is expected to move to an anchorage area in west Elliott Bay by early afternoon Tuesday, and to conduct various tests before returning to Vigor sometime Tuesday evening, once the Kulluk is in place. The advisory says the 500-yard security zone around SBX will be maintained wherever it is, so that could make for some varied ferry/Water Taxi routing on Tuesday.

ADDED 11:32 AM: Shell’s statement, received by e-mail:

In anticipation of a 2012 offshore Alaska drilling season, Shell will move the Kulluk drilling unit from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to the shipyard in Seattle, Washington for ongoing maintenance and planned, technical upgrades. The Kulluk is identified as a primary drilling unit in Shell’s 2012 Beaufort Sea Plan of Exploration. Once the upgrades are complete, Dutch Harbor will remain a staging ground for the Kulluk and other Shell vessels as we pursue exploration drilling on our leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

28 Replies to "Arctic offshore-drilling rig headed here; SBX to (temporarily) move"

  • velo_nut July 18, 2011 (9:00 am)

    Bring on the Conspiracy Theorists!!!!

  • DP July 18, 2011 (9:23 am)

    Has Greenpeace been invited to the party? I certainly hope so; drilling rigs are about as much fun as nuclear warheads.
    What did the Arctic ever do to us?

  • DP July 18, 2011 (11:06 am)

    Velo: Human-caused climate change isn’t a theory, conspiratorial or otherwise. It’s a fact.
    Despoilation of the environment by companies like Shell isn’t a theory. It, too, is a fact.
    Wish I was just a conspiracy nut for worrying about this sh*t . . .

  • Joe July 18, 2011 (11:08 am)

    More work for the people of Seattle is a good thing

  • Frank July 18, 2011 (11:37 am)

    Sweet. Can I get a tour?

  • . July 18, 2011 (12:19 pm)

    Drilling Season?

  • lynn July 18, 2011 (12:21 pm)

    what are the names of the accompanying tugs?

    • WSB July 18, 2011 (12:38 pm)

      Lynn – Look for Ocean Titan and Nanuq. The Kulluk itself doesn’t seem to be showing a signal. They are now close to Port Townsend.
      Apparently, ., there is a 3-month “drilling season” in the waters that far north. (Learned a lot about this while researching this story in the very-early hours this morning.

  • foy boy July 18, 2011 (12:35 pm)

    DP you for got to go running down the road yelling the sky is falling the sky is falling. And joe you are right about more work. This is a good thing.

  • good job Shell July 18, 2011 (2:17 pm)

    This will create many jobs for the shipyard and many more Seattle based companies right now, and in the future. I’m sure Shell has been overly cautious moving the rig from Dutch Harbor. They have a drill season to protect the environment and move out when weather moves in. Atleast they didn’t build an offshore island like another oil company did to escape all the permits and the rules they Shell is following. My point is here that we’re all lucky to have companies invest in our local economy. Even if they’re making a ton of money at the pump when the people buying gas are not. They may never get a permit and the rig could get moth balled after they invest MILLIONS into our economy. So if you’re sitting at home on unemployment reading this in the middle of a work day, I suggest finding a different point of view.

  • DP July 18, 2011 (2:21 pm)

    No, the sky isn’t falling. It is filling up with soot though. Maybe you hadn’t noticed foy boy, because you don’t live in LA or Mexico City. Just wait, though. The twenty-year forecast is for more smog, hurricanes, and rising temps.
    Jobs. Yeah, great. Anything for a job, I guess.
    Coming soon to a pristine wilderness near you: Beach scrubbing and bird de-oiling.
    There should be more jobs for people who want to plant trees and fewer jobs for people who want to pump oil. I can see people making the switch from one type of work to the other. They’re both outdoor jobs, suitable for rugged individualists.

  • good job Shell July 18, 2011 (2:25 pm)

    Also, the drill rig doesn’t need an AIS (AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SIGNAL) like the boats do.

    • WSB July 18, 2011 (2:46 pm)

      thanks, GJS, that’s interesting … even SBX has one.

  • Bill July 18, 2011 (3:06 pm)

    What is the marine radio band where we might tract the movement of the incoming tugs with the drilling rig?

  • good job Shell July 18, 2011 (3:34 pm)

    I’m not opposed to planting trees either. Every logging outfit an the Peninsula plants again after a clear cut. Since they were endangering the spotted owl, using smoggy equipment, and creating eye sores, we killed that industry too. Lucky for Forks, they have the Twilight series now but before that they were just another one of our NW towns dying from lack of logging. I know people can take overlook the the affects of drilling oil and how it will affect our planet. But if you want to close the doors on them

  • good job Shell July 18, 2011 (3:38 pm)

    Go right ahead. Its inevitable there will be drilling here we can mandate and help develope safe ways to drill. Or we can just give more work in the oil industry to other countries and let them spill it without wiping the birds off

  • rob July 18, 2011 (3:44 pm)

    i imagine there are other places, but if you goto and search for the nanuq you will see its current position.

  • good job Shell July 18, 2011 (3:48 pm)

    Bill-Seattle traffic is on channel 5 then 14 VHF when they get close to Edmonds.

  • rob July 18, 2011 (4:53 pm)

    The rig is now approaching Double bluff on southwest end of Whidbey Is. Speed 4.7 knots

  • Diver July 18, 2011 (5:36 pm)

    Follow the Nanuq on The rig also appears to be accompanied by the tugs Ocean Titan, Ocean Ranger, and the 87′ Coast Guard Cutter Swordfish.

  • J July 18, 2011 (6:20 pm)

    I’m with you, DP! (I hope it does get mothballed here. Maybe we can find a better use for it.)

  • xo July 19, 2011 (12:17 am)

    Wow money talks…

  • lynn July 19, 2011 (12:41 am)

    thanks TR! I’m following it on marine traffic app by following nanuq. i saw the SBX come in at night from the Alki tavern…impressive!

  • Bryan C. July 19, 2011 (9:40 pm)

    Both arguments are right. Jobs for Seattle for sure and yes Shell has a horrible environmental record around the world. These companies are good at covering up thier bad deeds, after all they have all the money. Jobs good but Shell is evil no doubt.

  • kootchman July 22, 2011 (4:59 am)

    Just love those hydrocarbon polymers … like the ones used in the soles of those Nike hikers…. what to do? Can’t walk down and protest, Can’t used hides anymore, that is a PC no no too…can’t drive…epoxy is oil based, can’t kayak out in those fiberglass epoxy rigs .. no dugouts, need a city permit to chop down the tree…no electric car cause we use oil or coal to generate the juice, or extract copper for the wires, cyanide and arsenic runoffs, and mountain top removal, ….. guess i will just sit here and shake my head at the outrage…same as usual. Something will come to me.

  • Sam July 22, 2011 (12:21 pm)

    It won’t be jobs for Americans, some rich folks somewhere will cash in on “the end of oil! nonsense – we should have been on solar and lots of other energy resources long ago. I wish it really were the end of oil, we’d all be alot richer. As it is, they’ll ruin the bay – but hey, as far as thier concerned – Armagedon is here! so why not destroy the earth and cash in on it while they can? good grief…it’s ALL sooooo dumb….

  • Sam July 22, 2011 (12:22 pm)

    If my email isn’t going to be used – why demand it?

  • mark July 22, 2011 (8:11 pm)

    Kaluk & SBX-1 Photo Link

    I work on the 12th floor of the Columbia Tower downtown. My friend at work took some photo’s from our office and posted them in an albumn he made public:

    (Sorry for the long link. Make sure you get it all on one line ending in the ?hl=en)

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