Shell secures conditional MMS approval for Beaufort Sea exploration plan

The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved, with conditions, Shell Offshore’s exploration plan to explore two leases in the Beaufort Sea.

Offshore staff

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved, with conditions, Shell Offshore’s exploration plan to explore two leases in the Beaufort Sea. The two leases were obtained by Shell Offshore during Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sales 195 and 202 in 2005 and 2007.

Shell proposes to drill two exploration wells during the July-October 2010 open water drilling season using the drillship M/V Frontier Discoverer.

Shell’s plans include a mid-drilling season break in activities and removal of the drillship from the area to accommodate fall subsistence bowhead whaling by the Native Villages of Kaktovik and Nuiqsut. Specifically, all operations will be suspended beginning Aug. 25, 2010, and all vessels will proceed from the project area to the northwest during the whale hunts, or would leave the Beaufort Sea entirely. Activities may be resumed after completion of the subsistence hunts and extend through Oct. 31, 2010, depending on ice and weather, the MMS says.

Prior to any drilling activities taking place, the plan must be consistent with the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program and Shell must obtain an approved application for permit to drill from the MMS. Shell must also meet air and water quality rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Marine Mammal Protection Act requirements of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.

Shell’s plan is limited to the far western area of Camden Bay, and involves the use of one drillship and one tending ice management vessel.

The Beaufort Sea is estimated to contain 8.22 Bbbl of oil and 27.64 tcf of natural gas (undiscovered technically recoverable mean estimate).

10/20/2009

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