Shell Drill Rigs Swap Out in Unalaska

Shell’s Kulluk drill rig is back in Unalaska after spending the fall in the Beaufort Sea, but it may not be around for long. Shell previously said the Kulluk would overwinter in Unalaska at its custom dock in Captain’s Bay, but spokesperson Kelly op de Weegh now says that it may go south for maintenance.

Meanwhile, Shell’s other drill rig – the Noble Discoverer – left for Seward late last week, just a few days after an engine backfire at City Dock. Op de Weegh says the rig will dock in Seward temporarily before heading south to an undisclosed West Coast port.

That could mean less money for the state’s coffers, which might have profited from the fleet’s presence. Alaska typically taxes property used in oil and gas exploration at a rate of 2 percent of the assessed value. Most rigs in the state are subject to that tax, but Shell is an unusual case. Its vessels are mobile and aren’t in Alaska waters year-round. On top of that, if they’re in the Lower 48 on January 1, they may not be included on Alaska’s tax rolls for the year.

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