Shell’s head of Alaskan exploration faces the press. (Photo by Fabio DiLupo.)

How about a quick update on Shell’s puttering about in the Arctic? You may remember that it’s trying to create a conduit comprised of a little bit of metal and some concrete that runs from the ocean surface directly into a large pocket of oil. This is a cause for concern to many people, although, in fairness, it has been months since there was a malfunction at an offshore rig that caused oil to spew into the ocean.

Shell’s progress has been slow, something it blames on basically everyone and everything: the air, the ice, the Department of the Interior. The one of those things that is capable of responding did.

“The cause for any delay here is Shell’s construction of its vessel,” [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar said. “They have not been able to get it done. If they had got it done, they may already be up there today, because the waters in the Chukchi [Sea] around the so-called Burger find are already open.”

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“It’s not a matter of ice, it’s a matter of whether Shell has the mechanical capability to comply with the exploration (plan) that had been approved,” Salazar added.

No offense to the good people at Shell, but Salazar may have a point. I mean, the company can’t even get the order of things right. See, first you’re supposed to drill the well and then you’re supposed to pollute the water. Shell got it backward.

The containment vessel designed to capture oil in the event of a spill during exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska has itself been responsible for four minor illegal fluid discharges during the last three weeks, the Coast Guard confirmed Monday.

The discharges all involved hydraulic fluid and were generally limited to about a quart each time, all of which was contained and cleaned up.

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Not a major spill. Just some practice. (And in case you were wondering, the boat at issue here is the same one that slipped its mooring last month. She’s a rascal.) [See update below.]

In all seriousness, literally nothing about this endeavor on Shell’s part inspires the tiniest bit of confidence. With any luck, the ice will come early this year and Shell will have to scrap the whole thing for the winter.

But — it won’t.

Update: As the good folks at Arctic Ready note, it was not the same boat, but another similarly exotic-sounding boat. So, of the two boats that I’ve heard of, 100 percent have had problems. I am also aware of the irony in my making a mistake in a post mocking someone for making a mistake. Please feel free to make a post mocking me for it, but try not to make any mistakes.

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