Shell Arctic Oil Spill Clean Up Gear "Crushed Like a Beer Can" in Tests

Ryan McFarland/CC BY 2.0

It may have been just test conditions, and not a final product, but the results of Shell's test of equipment to clean up oil spills in Arctic waters, done in the comparatively lake-like Puget Sound a back in June, really don't bode well.

KUOW reports that further information obtained on the tests shows that part of a 20' tall containment dome was "basically...crushed like a beer can."

Internal emails from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show that a test that was initially expected to take just a day turned out to be wildly optimistic, with the test ultimately taking the better part of a calendar week.

Here's what happened on Day 5,

The test has its worst accident. On that dead-calm Friday night, Mark Fesmire, the head of BSEE’s Alaska office, is on board the Challenger. He’s watching the underwater video feed from the remote-control submarine when, a little after midnight, the video screen suddenly fills with bubbles. The 20-foot-tall containment dome then shoots to the surface. The massive white dome “breached like a whale,” Fesmire e-mails a colleague at BSEE headquarters.

Then the dome sinks more than 120 feet. A safety buoy, basically a giant balloon, catches it before it hits bottom. About 12 hours later, the crew of the Challenger manages to get the dome back to the surface. “As bad as I thought,” Fesmire writes his BSEE colleague. “Basically the top half is crushed like a beer can.”

This rather disturbing info comes soon after Shell said that it had no doubt there would be oil spills as the result of its Arctic drilling operations, but that any would likely be small and be able to be rapidly dealt with.

Tags: Arctic | Oil