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Shell to Tow Grounded Alaska Drill Rig 30 Miles in Recovery Plan

Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to tow the drilling rig that ran aground in Alaska about 30 miles to a safe harbor after naval architects determined the vessel is safe to move.

The Kulluk, which ran aground after breaking from a tow boat during a storm on Dec. 31, will be moved to Kiliuda Bay, where more tests can be conducted, according to a Jan. 5 statement on the website of the Unified Command in Anchorage. The timing depends on weather, tides and readiness.

The vessel remains upright with its fuel tanks intact, according to the statement. It is grounded near Sitkalidak Island, on the north edge of Ocean Bay, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Kodiak, Alaska.

“Salvage teams are currently aboard the vessel and preparing for the recovery operations,” the Unified Command said. “Safety remains the number one priority and will drive all facets of the operation.”

The accident is the latest setback in Shell’s efforts to tap Arctic oil. Environmental groups said Jan. 3 they would ask President Barack Obama to suspend all current and pending Arctic drilling permits until operators prove they can work safely in the region’s harsh conditions.

The Unified Command system includes the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Kodiak Island Borough and Shell. As much as 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of other refined oil products are currently stored on board the Kulluk, according to the website.

The U.S. Army sent two Chinook helicopters to the area on Jan. 5 to help transport equipment for the recovery, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

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