Pipe breaks off, falls to ocean floor as rig moved during N.S. storm

HALIFAX - Two kilometres of pipe that connects an offshore drilling rig to a wellhead deep under the ocean broke off and sank in a storm off Nova Scotia's coast Saturday, prompting concerns from advocacy groups over the risks of accidents in harsh ocean conditions.

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Shell Canada (TSX:SHC) says in an email that there was no drilling fluid or hydrocarbon leak because the pipe had already been drained of fluids and a blowout protector remained in place over the well.

The exploratory drilling on the company's Cheshire well was taking place about 225 kilometres east of Nova Scotia when the well was disconnected in advance of a storm that was expected to create high seas.

The Shell email says as its contracted drill rig moved, high and heaving waves caused the "riser tensioner system" to break off and fall to the bottom of the ocean.

Shell says it's going to investigate the cause of what went wrong, and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board says it will monitor the findings.

John Davis, director of the Clean Ocean Action Committee, says he's glad there was no spill but the incident shows the vulnerability of the rich fishing areas on the Scotian Shelf to rig accidents.



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