Hard Aground: Transocean To Refloat Drilling Rig in Scotland

Transocean Winner aground on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in this photo released by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency on August 18, 2016.
Transocean Winner aground on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in this photo released by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency on August 18, 2016.

Salvors are planning to attach a second towline to the grounded drilling rig, Transocean Winner, crews continue to prepare to refloat the drilling rig off the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency reported Thursday.

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Officials hope that the remaining diesel oil onboard will be transferred later today, the Coastguard said. Any operation to refloat the rig is dependent on weather conditions.

Transfer of equipment to the rig continues by helicopter as part of the ongoing salvage operation, which is led by SMIT Salvage and Transocean. This includes compressors which will be used to provide buoyancy for the refloat.

A salvage team has been aboard the rig since Sunday. SMIT Salvage continues to assessments and stability analysis to make sure the rig has sufficient buoyancy.

A 300 meter exclusion zone covering the sea and air remains in place.

“We appreciate that there remains huge interest in the rig but we’ve put the exclusion zone in place for safety of the salvage teams and the public too,” said Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) for Maritime Salvage & Intervention.

On Thursday evening, Shaw will be attending a meeting with media and the public to talk about the plans for the refloat, where he plans to give a presentation and answer questions along with representatives from Transocean and the Western Isles Emergency Planning Coordinating Group.

An exercise to test procedures in the event of any diesel oil being spilled is scheduled to be carried out Friday morning. The exercise is meant to be a proactive test to look at how quickly equipment could be deployed from Carloway to various locations, the Coastguard said. This exercise is weather and operationally dependent.

The Transocean Winner ran aground on August 8 after breaking free from a tow in heavy weather. The 33-year-old semi-submersible had just finished a contract with Marathon Oil in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea in July, and was under tow from Norway to Malta when the incident occurred. The final destination was reportedly a shipyard in Turkey where the rig was scheduled to be demolished and recycled.

The rig was carrying a reported 280 metric tonnes of diesel when it ran aground. Two of the rig’s four diesel tanks are breached, and officials are still trying to determine exactly how much oil has spilled from the rig. 

About 200 people from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Transocean, Smit Salvage and Briggs Environmental have been involved in the response so far.