Shell Gulf of Mexico and Shell Offshore have agreed to pay fines of $1.1m imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for violations of the Clean Air Act by vessels used to drill two oil-exploration wells in Arctic waters off Alaska last year.
Based on inspections and the company’s excess emission report, the US federal agency documented numerous air permit violations for Shell’s Discoverer and Kulluk drill ship fleets, during approximately two months when the vessels operated in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
For the 23 violations of the Discoverer air permit, Shell has agreed to pay a $710,000 penalty and a $390,000 penalty for 11 violations of the Kulluk air permit.
The oil giant’s settlement resolved violations related to excessive hourly nitrogen-oxide emissions on the drillships and support vessels, and slips in use of emissions-cleansing equipment.
In 2012, EPA issued the Clean Air Act Outer Continental Shelf permits for Shell’s operations.
The permits set emission limits, pollution control requirements, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements on the vessels and their support fleets of icebreakers, spill response vessels and supply ships.
The Kulluk was eventually grounded during a December storm near Kodiak Island. EPA issued violation notices for Shell’s Discoverer and Kulluk air permits in January 2013.
"Despite reported overages in 2012, the EPA did not allege any negative impact from Shell’s emissions to local populations," Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told The Huffington Post.
Image: Arctic drilling programme in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, off the North Slope of Alaska. Photo courtesy of num_skyman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.