Press Release

Dec 5, 2012

Markey Questions Interior on Failed Arctic Spill Containment Test

Issues: BP Oil Spill


E-mails Describe Containment Dome “Crushed Like a Beer Can” During September Test

WASHINGTON (December 5, 2012) – After recently released e-mails at the Department of Interior show that a September test conducted by the Shell oil company on a containment system for Arctic drilling spills failed spectacularly, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today expressed concerns whether the company or others could safely drill in the harsh Arctic environment and whether other industry containment systems are at risk for similar failure. Rep. Markey, in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, asks his department for a full accounting of this failed test, and what it means for Arctic drilling moving forward.

During the test of the dome, the emails show that it uncontrollably “breached like a whale” out of the ocean, and was then discovered to have been “crushed like a beer can.” Remotely operated submersible robots became tangled in rigging lines, warning indicators were dismissed as defective, and divers were requested, even though using divers would likely not be possible during an actual disaster in the Arctic. The test was conducted in Puget Sound, far away from the actual Arctic environment.

“Shell’s unsuccessful test in Puget Sound raises new questions about the company’s ability to successfully drill offshore in the Arctic and, more generally, about the ability of containment devices to function properly in the harsh Arctic environment,” writes Rep. Markey, who is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over offshore drilling safety. “The outcome of the containment dome test, the fact that Shell may have missed warning signals that something was wrong and Shell’s problems using ROVs, which could be required in an Arctic environment, raise troubling questions about whether Shell can drill safely in this harsh and sensitive area.”

The full letter from Rep. Markey to Secretary Salazar can be found HERE.