A visitor walks up a ramp to the arctic oil drilling rig “Kulluk,” as it sits at the Vigor Shipyards, Friday, May 25, 2012, while undergoing extensive work in Seattle. Shell Oil hopes to use the rig to tap vast oil reserves below the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s north coast. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
SEATTLE (AP) — From the air, the Arctic drill ship Kulluk looks like a giant bowling pin seated on a shallow bowl.
With the centerpiece of the ship, the 160-foot derrick, Shell Oil hopes to send down drill bits and pipe to tap vast oil reserves below the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s north coast. But it’s the funnel-shape hull, with its flared sides, that makes the ship appropriate for Arctic Ocean waters, according to the company.
“This conical shape is designed so that if ice starts to run under it — ice moves in the Arctic — if that ice starts to run under it, what that cone does is deflect the ice downward and breaks the ice up into small pieces,” said Brent Ross, Shell Offshore Wells manager. “So in essence, you have a big drilling rig on a hull that’s shaped like an ice-breaker.”
If the oil giant gets its final federal permits and overcomes court challenges by environmental groups, the Kulluk and a second drill ship, the Noble Discover, will be in Alaska waters this year opening up America’s next petroleum frontier.
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