Shell Shuts Rig After Leak of Drilling Fluid Off of Alabama Coast

December 21, 2011

Royal Dutch Shell said Monday that it has shut down an offshore drilling rig off the coast of Alabama following a leak of drilling fluid.

Shell said 319 barrels of the synthetic and biodegradable fluid leaked from a booster line. The Coast Guard said the leak was reported Sunday and that the line was connected to a vessel supplying the drilling fluid.

The Southern Environmental Law Center said the drilling is part of an exploration plan approved by the government in May and challenged in federal court by several environmental groups.

Shell said the incident had nothing to do with the wellbore at the site, located in the Gulf’s Mississippi Canyon region where the BP oil spill occurred in 2010. Shell said the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved a plan to temporarily stop drilling and make repairs.

According to the Coast Guard report, the drilling rig operating at the site is the Deepwater Nautilus, owned by Transocean Ltd., which owned the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig, which burned, exploded and sank, triggering the BP spill. According to Transocean’s website, the Nautilus is drilling in about 8,000 feet of water.

Transocean spokesman Guy Cantwell said the company had no further comment.

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