Monday, July 27, 2015

Protesters Give Shell a Warm Portland "Welcome!"

Shell's incursion into the Arctic has already hit a snag, so to speak, in its ill-advised plan to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Several weeks ago, the M/V Fennica, sister to the M/V Nordica, scrapped bottom whilst departing ~1,000 miles north into the Arctic. Despite being under the guidance of a Harbor Pilot, the route she chose to leave the harbor was dubious, in the minds of many locals.

The channel the Fennica sailed, under guidance of a harbor pilot, was even shallower than the area’s 80-year-old charts showed. Charts still in use in the Aleutians and Arctic Alaska are based on surveys conducted in 1935 with sextants and hand-held lines to plumb the depths. 

After the incident, the NOAA ship Fairweather, already in the area on a mission to better map Arctic shipping routes, did a modern, electronic survey and found rocky areas less than 30 feet deep, including one just 22.5 feet deep. The Fennica sits 27.5 feet deep in the water

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Bill Fitzgerald, with the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment Dutch Harbor, said most of the deeper-draft fishing vessels using Dutch Harbor go around the opposite, deeper side of Hog Island. “They don’t typically have too deep a draft, at least going between Hog Island and Amaknak,” Fitzgerald said.(John Ryan, KUCB-FM, 7/20/2015)

A yard in the Port of Dutch Harbor claimed to be able to "slap a piece of steel" over the 3 foot gash, and have her "back on line before all the Federal paperwork could be completed."

Much to their credit, in a rare moment of clarity, Shell decided to have the non-life threatening hole repaired in the Lower 48, at Vigor Industrial on Swan Island in Portland.

The repair requires specialized skills and tools, due to the technical nature of her ice-strengthened steel hull.

If Shell thought she'd get a warm welcome in Portland, as compared to Seattle, "bing!," wrong answer, despite showering local (Oregon) politicians with intoxicating m-o-n-e-y!

"Sightline’s  review of publicly-available campaign finance records shows that since 2009, Shell has given $598,700.58 to state level candidates for office in Oregon. (It is a starkly different strategy than the one they deploy in Washington, where the company routes nearly all its political funds through lobbyists.) 

"In Oregon, the top recipients of Shell’s political largesse are: $11,280.70: Julie Parrish, a Republican currently representing District 37, (Tualatin/West Linn)." (Sightline Daily)

It is not clear how long the repair will take, but it is vital to Shell's Drilling Plan that the Fennica "be on station" during the drilling operation.

On board the Fennica is a 30 foot tall capping stack, which can be deployed in the event of a blow out, similar to what happened in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Arctia Offshore's Fennica and her sister vessel Nordica are assigned to Ice Management; patrolling and rounding up floes that could endanger the Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer. The Aiviq, Ross Choust and Tor Viking are assigned to Anchor Handing. duty.

In this operation, strict adherence to "The Plan" is paramount. The pawns are not interchangeable as few suggest. 

Not only State and Federal Authorities, but also a handful of conservation and environmental interests are closely monitoring this incursion into the Chukchi Sea.

Shell tried to ad-lib it in 2012, and look at the mess that resulted in the Kulluk ending up in an Asian scrapyard, the Noble Discoverer having to be pulled from the fray and dry towed to Singapore for extensive repairs, and millions of dollars in fines assessed.

Shell isn't messing around in the Gulf of Mexico, where assistance can be brought in in a short amount of time. Wainwright Alaska is 1,092 miles north of the Port of Dutch Harbor.

Help is not a "quick phone" call away if they get tangled up in their drawers – again!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

One of a Kind: NP 603

Seattle, June 1958. This photo captures the essence of salt waterfront railroading, with a trainman sitting on the front deck, absorbing the sights and sounds of tourists and seagulls!

Until the Great Merger took place, Seattle had a plethora of roads and power packs that contributed to enjoyable railroading. The Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Milwaukee Road had distinct personalities with a great variety of road and yard locomotives to observe.

The other thing they had in common; great outlook toward rail fans! I often prowled the round house out at Interbay, the diesel shop in Auburn, and the busy interior of Milwaukee's facilities at the Tide Flats. The rule universally understood: Look but don't touch!

In a previous post, we included a shot of a Great Northern transfer run along Alaskan Way, taken from the Lenora Street overpass, which fed the Canadian Pacific pier. There were few footbridges from First Avenue to the waterfront over Alaskan Way. I have forgotten which overpass this was taken from, perhaps Seneca Street, and that is a Northern Pacific Railway transfer unit shuffling south bound from Great Northern's Interbay Yard, with the massive support pillars of the Alaska Way Viaduct in the background.

Then, too, she may have also come from the area around Lake Union, as there was an NP bridge over the Lake Washington Ship canal just west of Ewing Street. The tracks up in that area were converted to the Burke-Gilman Trail, a very popular "Rails to Trails" bike/hike corridor along the Ship Canal and Lake Union, following the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Route, later NP, BN.

Rule #1:  Never ever shoot at high noon!
NP 603 was the one and only ALCo S1 switcher on the Road. One of a Kind! This is the "classic" ALCo S-1, often confused with the S-3.  Look at the trucks - the running gear. The S-1 is riding on a proprietary design Blunt Truck used only by ALCo. The S-3 rides on AAR "Type A" trucks. This is the only clear difference between the S-1 and S-3.

The rounded curves of the machine room hood was created by ALCo design engineer Raymond E. Patten, best known for the PA Covered Wagons!

In the days before the containerships, it was imperative that rail transportation had easy access to water transportation.

Indeed, the first major piers in Seattle grew out of a need for the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Milwaukee Roads, who each constructed rail-water interfaces.

Pacific Coast Coal also had a large facility for loading coal onto vessels, many destined for the furnaces of homes and business in the Bay (San Francisco) Area. The Pacific Coast Railroad brought the coal up from Black River Junction from coal mines south and east of Seattle.

An artifact left over from the days when sailing ships used rocks and gravel for ballast, instead of water, the ballast had to go "somewhere." This gave rise to "Ballast  Island"[pdf 3.09MB] now buried under the Seattle waterfront at the foot of Washington Street.

The Ballast Island "Formation" is one geological feature Seattle Tunnel Partners wants TBM Bertha to avoid. (No! Bertha still isn't glued back together! At last report, she'll resume boring in November, 2015, 2 years behind schedule.)

Railroad Stuff:
•  ALCo S1 660hp
•  Built: 8/1945 as NP 131
•  SN: 73585.
•  Prime mover, McIntosh & Seymour 539 4 cycle straight six. (M&S was purchased by ALCo in 1929.) This motor was found on many a tugboat, including the Active, which I rode on many times as a kid with my Dad on the Puget Sound. She had a 500 hp main.
•  Sold to International Terminals before the Merger.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Conflicted Advertising!

Seattle Sunday Times, July 12, 2015, p. A6

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Yulhyeon Tunnel Opening

Last month, the Yulhyeon tunnel became the longest rail tunnel in South Korea, and the third longest in the world.

•  Gotthard Tunnel, 57 km (35.4 miles).
•  Seikan Tunnel,  54 km (33.5 miles) in Japan.
•  The Yulhyeon Tunnel, 50.3 km (31.2 miles).

The Seoul metropolitan high-speed railway project broke ground in 2011 designed to build a 61.1 km-long (38 mile) high-speed railway connecting from Suseo in Seoul to Pyeongtaek in Gyeongi Province with a budget worth 3.06 trillion won (US$ 2.76 billion).

The Yulhyeon Tunnel makes up 83 percent of the total railway project.

The tunnel was not bored by a complex Tunnel Boring Machine. Instead, the tunnel was dug "by hand", using the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM). [pdf 2MB]

Excavation was completed in a total 21 headings advanced from access adits at every 2-3km (mile and a half) of the main tunnel length, each adit provided at least two tunnel headings. Ventilation shafts are located at about 3km intervals along the main tunnel alignment.

The rail alignment runs mostly beneath a low mountainous area and there are no cities or urban areas above. In zones of soft ground, a pilot tunnel with a center pillar and double arch NATM excavation to full cross section was utilized to control ground deformations.

The total excavation period, including access adits and ventilation shafts, was a swift three years and five months from January 2012 to June 2015.

Hyundai Rotem has been awarded two contracts to supply 300 km/h (186 mph) high speed train-sets. A 324bn won (US$282.6 B)contract covers 10 KTX-Sancheon train-sets for the Suseo High Speed Railway subsidiary of Korail, which will operate the 60 km high speed line  [44:48] now under construction.

Travel time through the Yulhyeon tunnel will be about  ~15 minutes at  240km/hr (150 mph.)

Article aggregated from several South Korean resources.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Duwamish Interchange

Great Northern, Seattle, August 13, 1960. What a visual delight! From the hogger’s great big friendly smile, to the “carriage lamp” classification lights! That’s Pier 2, Alaska Steam Ship company masts, in the background.

We found GN 83 and sister GN 77 in transfer service, having picked up cars from the Duwamish Interchange Milwaukee Road (Van Asselt), Union Pacific (Argo), and Northern Pacific (Stacy Street) leisurely chanting northbound along East Marginal Way, delivering GN bound cars up the waterfront to GN's Interbay Yard, now Balmer.

East Marginal Way becomes Alaskan Way (formerly Railroad Avenue,) which at that time feed numerous rail spurs onto Elliott Bay piers.  Not exactly a "Meridian Speedway" run, due to the traffic and pedestrian congestion along the Seattle waterfront, we did get ahead of this consist in time to catch them, from the Canadian Pacific Dock, Pier 64, Lenora Street overpass.

An atmospheric visual feast this 1960's shot provides — from an era when a motor vehicle was a motor vehicle — not a Nike-shoe-all-look-alike. How many vehicles you can identify? Gotta love those hood ornaments! In the background is the vehicle entrance into the CPR dock.

Seattle being part of the famous Canadian Pacific Triangle Route; Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver,

featuring some of the smartest steamers to every ply the Puget Sound; the Princess Marguerite and Princess Patricia.

Everything on the Seattle waterfront changed — dramatically — with the arrival of the Box Boats. The transfer line and team tracks were yanked up. Everything passes north — south beneath the City in the Great Northern Tunnel, via the vanilla BNSF with its boring fleet of "Toaster Ovens."

From the south, the transfer line ends at King Street, and from the north at Lenora Street.

What remains for me is the memory of a cacophony of noise, as the Duwamish Transfer trundled along Alaskan Way, with the hideous blat of a single trumpet air horn, doing the required crossing tattoo at every single block long the waterfront, along with the constantly clanging bell!

A wonderful mixture of Ye Old Curiosity Shop, the salivating aura of fish 'n chips and clam chowder from Ivar's Acres of Clams, salt air, shrieking seagulls and authentic railroading!

Railroad Stuff: GN 83 model EMD SW-1, 600hp., built EMD 1/50, sn: 11025. Became BN 83, and was retired in 1983. GN 77 model EMC SW-1 as 5103, 9/41, sn: 1380. Became BN 77. Sold to  the Walla Walla Valley Railway, owned by Northern Pacific, in August 1971. Retired in November, 1974.

Walla Walla Valley Railway shuttered in 1985.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Shell! Shell! the Gang's All Here!"

Shell's Arctic Invasion Force is gathering in Unalaska, last chance to top off the fuel tanks, pick up a six-pack and a bag of ice before transiting  another 1,000 miles north to the Chukchi Sea. Latest A.I.S. (Automatic Identification System) plot on MarineTraffic show more than half of Shell's Arctic fleet is in the City of Unalaska, Port of Dutch Harbor, on Friday evening (7-3).

Vessels include:
•  Transocean Polar Pioneer - Modular Offshore Drilling Unit
•  Ocean Wave
•  Tor Viking II, Anchor Handling Supply Tug (AHST)
•  Barbara Foss
•  Corbin Foss
•  Nordica, and
•  Fennica (Finnish Ice Handling Tug with lady Master.) These identical twins powered from Finland to Alaska via Panama Canal, passing through the Canal early last month.

The Polar icebreakers Nordica and Fennica are being prepared for an ice management operation in the Chukchi Sea.  While the crew has been mobilizing the vessels, authorities have been conducting their inspections and stakeholders have gotten acquainted with the operation.

Fennica was last visited by representatives of Alaska Natives who were given a tour of the vessels and a presentation of the planned operation. Both Fennica and Nordica are equipped with catalytic converters. Together with Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel - fuel these vessels exhaust fumes are well below the limits for sensitive Arctic areas as set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

•  Ocean Wind
•  Nanuq
•  Ross Choust

The AHST Aiviq departed Friday for the Chukchi Sea, while the Noble Drillship, Noble Discover was last reported off Kyuquot BC on Tuesday, heading for Unalaska.

Shell's Plan 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), formerly Minerals Management Services, re-organized following the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, approved Shell's operating plan, Revision 2, in March, detailing the events planned by Shell in the Chukchi Sea.

Among dozens of areas of concern, details of resources and facilities and their impact on water quality, air contamination, and impact on whales, dolphins, and other fisheries. The report is detailed down to the amount of garbage, waste water; even gray water from toilets and showers.

The Plan calls for the drilling of 6 exploratory wells, yellow in diagram above, three each by the Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer, and vacate the Chukchi Sea at the end of October, 2015.

Helicopters will be used extensively to ferry personnel to Wainwright and Barrow from the drill platforms. You may recall that during the ill-fated 2012 drilling season, "Shell had hired PHI, a helicopter company that it had long used in the Gulf of Mexico. As the weather worsened, the helicopters were often unable to make the trip. 

"They had no de-icing equipment, and their pilots were unfamiliar with the Arctic." (New York Times Magazine, Dec. 30, 2014)

I urge you to download and read the full report  [pdf 4.08MB].

Rest assured, the snooze media will never report this information to you.

Major Oil Spill

Alarmingly, the plan acknowledges a 75% chance of a major oil spill, which:

•  Could result in the deaths of large numbers of polar bears.
•  Could result in many thousands of seals, especially ringed seal pups, dying from oil exposure.
•  Could decimate bird populations and result in population-level effects for most marine and coastal bird species that would take more than three generations to recover.
•  Could kill 60,000 brant and have major impacts on the Pacific flyway brant population.
•  Could result in "large-scale mortality" for murres, puffins, kittiwakes, auklets, and shearwaters.

"But as the Deepwater Horizon incident has demonstrated, rare accidents can occur. Each resource section in the 2015 Second SEIS (BOEM, 2015a) analyzes potential effects of large (.1,000 bbl) or very large (.150,000 bbl) oil spills. In the 2015 Second SEIS (BOEM, 2015), BOEM created a hypothetical scenario covering exploration and development activities occurring over a 77 year period.

"According to this scenario, there is a 75% chance of one or more large spills (>1,000bbl) occurring over the 77 year period; however, the data show that a large spill in the relatively short exploration phase of this period is statistically unlikely (see Appendix A, Section A-4.1.4)."   (BOEM Environmental Plan,  p. 34)

Despite the potential for disaster, BOEM rushed through the process to approve the plan so Shell could start drilling. Such an event will ruin President Obama's legacy.


This graphic details the resources - Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODU,) anchor handling supply tugs, ice management tugs, aircraft (for crews transfers to and from MODU's to the "Man Camps" in Wainright and Point Barrow - along with spill containment and miscellaneous water craft.


Wainwright and Barrow Man Camps, Wiley Post - Will Rogers Memorial Airport.
Shell is building two "Man Camps," one at Wainright and a smaller facility at Barrow.

Graciously, Shell is adding onto the existing airport terminal in Barrow, to facilitate increased passenger services. Drilling crews, technicians, and other personnel will use this gateway to Fairbanks, Anchorage thence to Seattle.

Alaska Airlines provides regular service to Barrow, along with a handful of regionals, like Ryan Air.

Climate Change

Earth to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK): While you and your congressional cohorts believe Climate Change is an unscientific hoax, scientists over at Shell Oil acknowledge it as scientific fact.

" ¶ 3.1.1 Climate Change A thorough scientific examination of climate change in the Arctic is provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth assessment synthesis report (IPCC, 2013) and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA, 2005).

"The two reviews offer the most comprehensive compilation of information available on climate change, agreeing that the Arctic is experiencing variations that are accelerating faster than previously realized (Karcher et al., 2010). Other research concurs the Arctic is undergoing a rapid transition, including surface warming (affecting cloudiness) and changes in the cryosphere-the frozen water part of the Earth system that includes sea ice (Matthes, Rinke, and Dethloff, 2009). See Section 3.1.9 of the 2015 Second SEIS for more information on Climate Change." (BOEM Environmental Plan, p. 29)

Further discussion of Climate Change is found later in the BOEM Environmental Plan in ¶ 4.1.1, pp. 75.

Indeed Sen. Inhofe published "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future." Moreover, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently scolded Pope Francis "to stay out of the ongoing debate over global warming."

A Class Act Statesman.

Final thought:  two months after BOEM approved Shell's Arctic Drilling Plan, a major spill ruined the beaches of Santa Barbara.

See Also:
•  Face to Face with Noble Discoverer
•  Float-off Polar Pioneer