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Shell’s Grounded Arctic Drilling Rig Towed to Safe Harbor

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Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc and a salvage crew refloated an Arctic drilling rig that ran aground in Alaska and towed it to a safe harbor.

The Kulluk, which broke free from a tow boat during a storm on Dec. 31, was refloated off Sitkalidak Island at about 10:10 p.m. Alaska time last night, the Unified Command said in a statement today. A tug towed it about 52 miles (84 kilometers) to Kiliuda Bay for more tests, according to a subsequent statement.

The rig had grounded about 60 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska, the latest setback in Shell’s almost $5 billion effort 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 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 command website.

No fuel spill has been detected, according to the latest command statement.

There are more than 730 people involved in the rig recovery. The vessel is attached to the MV Aiviq by tow line, the command said. Three additional tugs are on standby along with the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley and two oil spill response vessels.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at egismatullin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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