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Originally published March 14, 2013 at 8:46 PM | Page modified March 15, 2013 at 9:47 AM

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Interior cites Shell’s contractor oversight in Alaska oil troubles

Shell Oil will need to submit a detailed plan describing every phase of its drilling plan before it could resume its arctic drilling efforts, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

Seattle Times reporter

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Interior Department officials, in a report released Thursday, faulted Shell Oil for poor oversight of contractors during a troubled season of exploration in the Arctic last year off Alaska.

The problems included an oil-spill-containment system that initially failed to pass a Coast Guard inspection, an oil drill ship cited for safety and environmental violations and a drill rig that broke loose from a tow line in a December storm and went aground off Kodiak Island.

“A recurring theme from Shell’s 2012 experience is that there were significant problems with contractors on which Shell relied for critical aspects of its program,” said the report.

Shell officials say they have taken “a pause” in Arctic drilling, and will not conduct any exploration operations off Alaska this year. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Shell would have to submit a detailed plan describing every phase of its drilling program before it could resume.

“Shell will not be allowed ... to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan in place that is satisfactory to the Department of Interior,” Salazar said. “Shell screwed up in 2012 and we’re not gong to let them screw up ... after their pause is removed.”

To prepare for the 2012 season, Shell had work done on two oil rigs at Vigor Marine’s Seattle shipyard.

Brian Mannion, a Vigor spokesman, said the shipyard installed pollution-control equipment developed by another contractor and there were no problems with installation.

“Everything went fine with our part,” Mannion said.

Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman in Alaska, said the company will be reviewing the lessons learned from 2012 to improve the Arctic exploration effort.

“Alaska remains a high potential area over the long term, and we remain committed to drilling there safely, again,” Smith said.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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