Alaska drilling rig towed to harbor off Kodiak Island

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Story highlights

  • The oil-drilling barge Kulluk has arrived at a harbor off Kodiak Island
  • Salvage crews began towing the rig after refloating it Sunday night
  • No signs the rig is leaking, incident response team says
  • It ran aground several days ago off Alaska's southern coast

A Royal Dutch Shell oil-drilling barge that ran aground last week off southern Alaska arrived at a harbor Monday with no sign of any fuel leaks, an incident-response team reported.

The 266-foot-diameter Kulluk arrived at Kiliuda Bay, off Alaska's Kokiak Island, about 10 a.m. (2 p.m. ET) after being towed some 45 nautical miles in the previous 12 hours, according to the team, which includes representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, the state of Alaska and the Kodiak Island government.

The rig will remain in the harbor and connected to support vessels while it is assessed, the team said.

Salvage crews refloated the 266-foot-diameter Kulluk on Sunday night and began towing it a few hours later, according to the incident response team.

The rig ran aground off uninhabited Sitkalidak Island, about 200 miles south of Anchorage, after tug crews towing it had to cut it loose on December 31 during a storm that whipped up 24-foot waves. The Coast Guard had evacuated the rig the previous day amid a severe storm as it was being towed back to its winter home in Seattle.

The rig had been working in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska's North Slope.

As much as 150,000 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel and about 12,000 gallons of other petroleum products are on board the Kulluk, a double-hulled steel vessel with a helicopter landing pad and tower in the middle designed for drilling in Arctic waters.

    Infrared cameras on a boat accompanying the rig as it was being towed detected no signs of leakage early Monday, according to the unified incident response command, which includes the Coast Guard, Alaska's state environmental conservation department, a drilling company and Kodiak Island officials.

    Earlier assessments also indicated the rig was in good condition and posed no environmental hazard.

    While it was being towed, the Kulluk was accompanied by a Coast Guard cutter and two oil-spill response ships, the incident response team said.

    "Monitoring by the oil spill response vessels escorting the tow confirmed that there were no signs of a discharge of oil during the transit," the team said in a news release.

    Shell's Arctic exploration plans caused widespread concern among environmentalists and were held up after BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Shell says it's working at far less depth and lower pressures than the BP well that erupted off Louisiana, killing 11 men aboard and unleashing an undersea gusher that took three months to cap.

    The U.S. Geological Survey estimates more than 90 billion barrels of oil and nearly 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may be recoverable by drilling in the North Slope area.

    Coast Guard: No leaks from grounded rig

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