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It never was 21 days

Exclusive docs show timeline for Shelburne Basin capping stack was always achievable in two weeks

by Miles Howe

It never was 21 days

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) -- Through an Access to Information Request, the Halifax Media Co-op has acquired documents from Shell Canada Limited, outlining the timeline required to deploy a capping stack in the event of a deep-water blowout at their intended Shelburne Basin Drilling Venture.

The documents themselves are of interest because they show that the timeline required to bring a capping stack from Norway has always been a maximum two week process (see this article for backgrounder on why Nova Scotia won't get its own capping stack on-site).

The documents brings into doubt the veracity of the weeks-long 'back and forth' between Shell Canada, the public and the Canada – Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), whereby public displeasure at Shell's initial 21 day timeline to deploy the capping stack was heightened. The pantomime the public was supposed to believe was that it was only through the supposedly stern regulatory handling of the CNSOPB that Shell's timeline was brought down to the more digestible twelve or thirteen days.

Shell's timeline, according to the documents we have obtained, reads as follows:

Day 1 – Shell notifies OSRL of the need to mobilize a stack

Day 1 -3 – Shell mobilizes transport vessel to dock in Norway

Day 1 – Shell mobilizes equipment for loading capping stack

Day 1 – Load stack onto tracks and transport to dock within the OSRL shorebase

Day 2 -3 – Capping stack function and pressure test

Day 4 – Load stack onto vessel

Day 4 -12 – Transport stack to well site

Day 13 – 14 – Deploy stack

As we see, in Shell's own writing it is capable of bringing a capping stack from Norway to the Shelburne Basin in a maximum of 14 days, and potentially in 12. The vast majority of this time, is, of course, eaten up by transport time between Norway and the drill site off the coast of Nova Scotia.

There never was a functional 21 day timeline to speak of.

This would appear to be a classic case of public perception management, whereby an initially displeasurable, yet false, number (in this case a 21 day waiting period from deep water blowout to capping stack deployment) is replaced by a less displeasurable number (in this case 12 days).

The purpose is two-fold.

Firstly, the illusion of a tough regulator (in this case the CNSOPB), working on the side of the public, is achieved or maintained.

Secondly, the best-case reality (in this case having a capping stack on hand in Halifax in anticipation of a possible blowout) is kicked somewhere into the realm of fancy, far beyond what legitimate discussion might hope to achieve.

Et voila. From 21 to 12, thanks to the tough but fair hand of the CNSOPB. But never a capping stack on site.

No. That would just be too costly to Shell.

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