Everywhere around the world that companies are drilling for oil and gas, they face many challenges. The rig crews battle against the blistering heat of deserts, the relentless pounding of huge waves and gale force winds on offshore rigs, and in the far North they face sub-zero temperatures and all the hazards that come with life in the Arctic.
Another factor that makes life difficult for the executives back at headquarters and sometimes for the men on the rigs; the radical environmentalists!
In mid-August the U. S. Department of the Interior gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to drill in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast. It was the result of a long and costly process in which Shell had to apply for permits, file hundreds of documents, and submit to countless on-site inspections. Even after all that, the feds would only allow Shell to drill deep enough to install a blowout preventer and capping stack, but not deep enough to reach oil. Shell can't go after the actual oil until an oil containment vessel completes a major retrofit, certified by the Coast Guard and brought on-site. The vessel is a fourth- or fifth-level backup in the event of a spill, but without it Shell won't be allowed to go any further.
Even though the feds are taking the most painstaking and cautious approach possible, it's not enough for the environmentalists.
Groups like Oceana are still lobbying to stop the process. Oceana's top lawyer, Mike Levine, issued a statement accusing the government of continuing “to bend over backward to accommodate a company that is still not ready to drill.” In response, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated “In terms of our approach, it has not changed at all. We are holding Shell's feet to the fire.”
Today, Greenpeace told The Guardian newspaper "Such recklessness wouldn't look out of place in a stock-car race. The only option now is for the US government to call a halt to Shell's plans to open up the frozen North because the company is so clearly unable to operate safely in the planet's most extreme environment.”
The radical environmentalists claim is there is no such thing as a "safe" way to drill for oil anywhere on land or sea. They aren't concerned with how food will get from the farm to the supermarket, how workers will get from their homes to the office or factory, or how injured and sick people will be taken to a hospital. Their only goal is to stop anyone from drilling anywhere on the planet.
In North America, the oil companies have to counter the efforts of the so-called "tree huggers" by fighting them in court.
The Russians have a different take on how to deal with the problem.
On August 24th, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, and five of his comrades traveled more the 600 miles offshore in the Arctic and scaled the sides of a Russian drilling platform Prirazlomnaya. They hung a banner that read "Save the Arctic" (even though, being hundreds of miles from land, no one would see it) and suspended themselves in makeshift tented platforms. They had sufficient food and water for an extended stay of several days.
At first the Russian rig hands offered hot soup to the protesters and invited them to come on deck for a "constructive dialogue" but both offers were refused. The rig hands even tried to hoist the protesters up to the deck, using cranes and winches, but were unsuccessful.
When it became clear that there was no point in trying to talk with the protesters/vandals, the Russians came up with a sound and reasonable solution; instead of calling their lawyers and filing a lawsuit, the Gazprom workers broke out the fire hoses and began drenching their unwanted visitors with water. Occasionally chunks of metal "fell" from the rig's deck onto the protesters suspended dozens of yards below.
All of the "activists" were wearing hardhats and no one was injured by the pieces of metal raining down from above. Though they had planned to stay for several days, after just 15 hours of being blasted by the hoses and dodging chunks of iron, the vandals descended to the rigid inflatable boats they had come in and fled into the distance.
Lawsuits can take months or even years to produce results, but at sea-level, a falling piece of pipe or water from a hose accelerates by 32 feet per second until it either reaches "terminal velocity" (about 200 mph)... or hits something.
Gazprom's response to the activists was far cheaper and much faster than going to court.
How would the same sort of thing go over on your rig?