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Polar Pioneer Oil Drilling Rig

Polar Pioneer Oil Drilling Rig


The modern society is characterized by the existence of artifacts of different ages which serve as a means of influence when used by certain social and political movements. The existence of this issue is one of the major reasons for the investigations related to the origin and social connections of artifacts. Different business entities, social, governmental organizations and political powers are interested in learning the nature and the function of artifacts. Usually, the final objective of such investigations is the knowledge about the means of implication of an artifact in certain power relations. Empowered with this knowledge, any organization or social or political group may influence various social and political processes using it as an instrument of influence. This research paper discusses the scenario when the research firm “STS Analytics” orders a social analysis of Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig. Therefore, the current research investigates the nature of this artifact, its relationship with the major social and political issues as well as discusses social actors engaged with it. As a result, the performed analysis would allow estimating the degree of usability of Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig as a means of social or political influence.

Description of the Artifact

Before discussing social and political aspects of the artifact, one has to present its detailed description and analysis. Polar Pioneer is an oil drilling rig that belongs to Shell Corporation, which is one of the world’s largest oil-related business entities (Garnick). The peculiarities of this oil drilling rig is that it is movable, which results that it arrives at the US ports when there is a bad weather season for oil drilling. Its recent activity was the exploration of the North Slope after which it has been moved to Alaska’s Dutch Harbor and afterward to Port Angeles Harbor (Garnick). The characteristics of the artifact presume that it is an enormously large and heavy though moveable industrial object. Its gross tonnage is 38,564 tons; built in 1985, it can reach the maximum speed of 5,5 knots (Polar Pioneer – Platform: Current Position and Details).

The design of the object presumes that it supports long-term operation in the open sea and oceanic water areas located remotely from ports. Therefore, it accommodates 114 persons, bears 5 Bergen KVG-18 diesel engines rated at 2,750 kW each and a single MTU 12-396 diesel engine rated 1,137kW (Polar Pioneer). Moreover, its significant storage capacity allows carrying 16,143 barrels of fuel oil, 1,720 barrels of liquid mud, 12,265 barrels of drill water. Likewise, it carries 5,172 barrels of portable water and 28,012 cubic feet of bulk material (Polar Pioneer). Additionally, it has two helidecks as well as tons of expensive specialized machinery. Therefore, this massive industrial artifact has a potential of being used as a means of social or political influence as will be discussed further.

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Relationship between the Artifact and the Major Social/Political Issues

The performed analysis of the current social/political issues surrounding the characterized artifact and impacting revealed that the company’s owner has struggles with environmental activists. Thus, experts report that the agreement between Royal Dutch Shell and Port of Seattle resulted in such outraged reaction of environmental organizations (Beekman and Garnick). Thus, according to the agreement, the Port of Seattle accepts oil drilling and related vessels during the off-season after oil exploration in Arctic waters. However, environmental activists see the two negative outcomes of this event. The first one is that oil machinery pollutes local waters of Seattle whereas the second one is a concern about the global environment. Therefore, the participants of the environmental protest claim that Shell should not be drilling in Arctic waters. They argue that “We can’t clean it up if it spills, we don’t need the oil, and it’s bad for the climate” (Beekman and Garnick). However, Shell’s reaction towards the actions of activists was ignorant, which caused a massive in-water protest with people on kayaks, who surrounded the drilling rig (““Paddle in Seattle” Arctic Oil Drilling Protest”). Thus, hundreds of people gathered around the Polar Pioneer and prevented its transportation to operations site. The protest was initiated by a coalition of activists, who claimed that Shells drilling in Arctic would damage the world’s ecosystem (““Paddle in Seattle” Arctic Oil Drilling Protest”). Additionally, the activists initiated several peaceful disobedience days in May 2015 with various slogans claiming for environmental justice. At the same time, Shell refused to meet the demands of the activists because it invested a $6bn on exploration in the Arctic (““Paddle in Seattle” Arctic Oil Drilling Protest”). Consequently, Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig remains in the center of social conflict on the basis of environmental protection issue.

Social Actors Engaged with the Artifact

This section of the research aims at exploring the major social actors or “social worlds” that are engaged with the artifact. Additionally, it discusses the influence of the identified groups on the state of Polar Pioneer. Thus, Polar Pioneer is one of the most powerful industrial facilities in the world that it is based on advanced industrial technologies. At the same time, scholars claim that almost any new technology brings social controversies, which cannot be abstracted or bypassed (Clarke and Montini). Therefore, there is a need to address the actors involved in the evolved social controversy. It is evident that the major claim of environmental activists is the need for the protection of global environment. Thus, they define Arctic as the area of significant impact on the ecology throughout the globe. Their primary concern in this sense is the amount of pollution associated with the oil drilling industry. Apparently, Arctic is the place which stores the world’s largest amount of fresh water in the form of ice. Additionally, this place has been the enclosed ecosystem throughout a significant period of time because of severe natural conditions. However, the latest reports of various environmental organizations reveal that the Arctic ecosystem has been drastically affected by human activity, which, consequently, leads to global warming (“Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice”). Therefore, the environmental activists restrain the processes of oil exploration in the defined area aiming at defending the global environment.

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Furthermore, it is evident that Shell Corporation has a particular business interest in the exploration of the Arctic. One of the most vivid facts demonstrating it is the agreement with various ports and the expenditures related to oil exploration in Arctic. Therefore, different social groups represent various dimensions of a complex phenomenon of concerns of different purposes (Clarke and Montini). Thus, the environmental activists render Polar Pioneer as the source of danger for the environment. At the same time, Shell Corporation regards to this artifact as an advanced instrument for making profit within the selected industry. Consequently, both social actors defend their positions as it was discussed above.

The Artifact and the Politics

The performed analysis of the artifact and related actors suggests that the artifact may be involved in the opposition of political interests. The reason for this presumption is the statement of the experts that technical things have political qualities (Winner). Thus, it is evident that the described artifact stacks “the technological deck” (Winner 125) in favor of certain social groups whereas opposing the others. That is why, it is important to realize that there are “power holders” (Winner 124) behind the social origins of the discussed opposing events. This means that the political group supporting Shell stands for the profit gain as a result of its oil drilling activity. At the same time, the opposing environmental groups might pursue the aim of global influence where its first stage is the impact on social processes associated with environmental issues. At the same time, the opposing forces present different forms of political power resulted by the technology. Thus, Shell Corporation may be regarded as “authoritarian” power of technology (Winner 128). The reason for this assumption is that the company refuses to cooperate with its opposition and aims at reaching one’s aims. At the same time, the social power of ecological activism is “democratic” (Winner 128), because the involved people protest peacefully. Consequently, the investigation presumes that the artifact requires democratic power arrangements because the environmental activists encourage democratic power arrangement. On the contrary, if they had chosen aggressive means of opposition, the centralized form of control would be justified. Thus, Shell should meet the demands for democratic power arrangement of the discussed artifact.

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The research comes to a conclusion that the artifact Polar Pioneer is involved in social and political tensions which require democratic power arrangement. Thus, the opposing social forces present certain political powers that have a different vision of the identified artifact. Therefore, Shell Corporation regards Polar Pioneer oil drilling rig as a means of getting profit and spreading its influence in the oil industry. At the same time, the political power behind the environmental activists renders Polar Pioneer as a source of acquiring the worldwide social influence. Furthermore, it is evident that one of the parties prefers democratic resolution of the conflict. Therefore, the oil drilling business should give preference to democratic power arrangement of the issue involving the discussed artifact.

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