During a tour of the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence, visitors saw several stories. Behind safety tape and blocked off zones, men in coveralls and hard hats worked to get the rig shipshape for the fall drilling season. Pipes and wiring spread around the decks. A technician worked on a satellite communications dish. Notes written on walls like “fire extinguisher here” showed items still to be done. In the galley, weary men filled up on chips, sandwiches and fruit.
Add it all together and the scene answers a question many Homer residents have asked: After almost three weeks, why is the Endeavour still moored at the Deep Water Dock?
The short answer to why Buccaneer is in Homer — and why crews are laboring so hard — is that after a 20-day trip on the heavy lift vessel Keng Sheng Kou from Singapore to Homer, the rig needs work to be ready for the next step, drilling at the Northwest Unit in upper Cook Inlet.
An important step in that process is to schedule a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Compliance inspection. That inspection makes sure Buccaneer complies with requirements for lifesaving equipment, cranes, first extinguishing systems, construction and arrangement, and stability.
On Tuesday, Buccaneer Energy allowed news media on a tour of the rig, including the Homer News, the Homer Tribune and KTUU Channel 2. KBBI 890 AM news radio chose not to be on the tour because of a restriction that journalists could not bring cameras on board. Photographs could be taken from the dock. Buccaneer cited safety concerns for the camera restriction.
Part of a dedication ceremony for the Endeavour, reporters visited along with two busloads of Buccaneer employees, including CEO Curtis Burton, Australian investors, members of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, Homer Mayor James Hornaday and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.
Seaton had been on a tour in late August that was less formal and allowed personal cameras. Reporters were not invited on that tour.
The tour showed the rig’s 410-foot jack-up legs had been lowered to the sea bottom off the Deep Water Dock after two mooring lines broke during a storm on Sunday afternoon.
Before the Endeavour is cleared to drill, Coast Guard inspectors from Alaska and the Lower 48 qualified to inspect mobile offshore drilling units, or MODUs, will examine the rig. Once the Endeavour receives its Certificate of Compliance from the Coast Guard, it can leave Homer.
Lt. Sarah Geoffrion, supervisor for U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment, Homer, said her office has not done an inspection on the Endeavour. Geoffrion’s office did look at the ballast record recording requirements for the Keng Sheng Fou to make sure it properly flushed ballast tanks on the high seas, she said.
The Endeavour has to complete its wells by Oct. 31 at the Northwest Unit unless it applies to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for a winter oil spill scenario to be added to its Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, or C-Plan, said Kyle Smith, policy and legislative adviser for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also can order Buccaneer to stop drilling in the Northwest Unit if its equipment isn’t properly weatherized and performance is negatively impacted by colder temperatures, Smith said.
Buccaneer had said earlier it plans to move the Endeavour south to the Cosmopolitan Unit off Anchor Point after it completes drilling in the upper inlet.
That might not happen.
Smith said Buccaneer also needs a Plan of Operations to drill at the Cosmopolitan Unit. As of Monday, Buccaneer had not applied for a permit, he said. It also needs other permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation; the state Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water; the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; the state Department of Fish and Game; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for rig siting; and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Applying for permits can take from two to three months, Smith said.
Jay Morakis of JMR Worldwide, the public relations firm Buccaneer has hired, said permitting for the Cosmopolitan site is on track. Permitting was delayed because of the time it took for Buccaneer to close acquisition of the lease.
“They’re formalizing all the permitting for the asset and submitting it for approval,” he said.
Morakis said he didn’t know what would happen if the Cosmopolitan permits don’t come through in time.
“Buccaneer plays by the rules,” he said. “If permitting is not in place, we’ll have to find an alternative dock for the rig. It’s that simple.”
Morakis said it’s too early to tell if that would mean bringing the Endeavour back to Homer.
At the dedication, Buccaneer CEO Curtis Burton said he was inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s words, “Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
“We at Buccaneer have always had big dreams,” Burton said. “Big dreams for Buccaneer, big dreams for Alaska, big dreams for the energy independence of the U.S.”
Burton noted that Buccaneer isn’t a big oil company.
“We’re a small company that dares to do big things, make big deals, and God willing, we’ll do some big things in Alaska with you,” he said.
As a small company, Burton said he’s aware many communities think big oil companies place profit above everything else.
“We will never place profits ahead of our corporate values at Buccaneer,” he said. “Those values include the fact that we will always place the safety of our personnel and our crews and our people working on sites ahead of everything else.”
Buccaneer’s corporate values also include protecting the environment, he said. Some people say the environment should come first, Burton said.
“If you take care of your people and you take care of the hardware, they will take care of the environment,” he said. “That’s our pledge.”