Shell hopeful of approval for Alaska well

Shell Offshore has applied for a permit to drill an exploration well next year in the Beaufort Sea.

Offshore staff

HOUSTON -- Shell Offshore has applied for a permit to drill an exploration well next year in the Beaufort Sea. The company says its submission to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) applies specifically to the shallow waters of Camden Bay, and continues the regulatory process toward an approved summer drilling season.

Last year the BOEM approved Shell’s Offshore Alaska Plan of Exploration. This was challenged but upheld in May by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Shell adds that prior to approval, BOEMRE had issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” after its studies suggested that the proposed drilling would have no significant impact on the marine environment or resources of the Camden Bay area. It also concluded that Shell’s program would not negatively impact subsistence use of those resources.

“We have every reason to believe the Administration will permit 2011 exploration drilling in Alaska,” said Pete Slaiby, Shell Alaska vice president. “The President, himself, endorsed our Alaska exploration program last spring. Unfortunately, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy occurred and led to a suspension of offshore activities in Alaska. Since then, Shell has taken extraordinary steps to build confidence around our 2011 program, which involves a limited number of exploration wells in shallow water with unprecedented, on-site oil spill response capability.”

Shell notified the BOEMRE of its plan to collect drilling mud, cuttings, and various drilling fluid samples at the proposed well. The company says it has designed the most robust oil spill response system around for arctic operations. In accordance with the BOEMRE’s recent Notice to Lessees (2010-N06), it has confirmed that the worst-case discharge volumes for the proposed well are below those of typical Alaska planning standards.

The company has restated its commitment to engineer an oil spill containment system, designed to capture hydrocarbons at the source in the event of a shallow water blowout. This system will remain in Alaska for swift, on-site recovery.

“We are now five years into some of our 10-year lease agreements. Further delays will only serve to jeopardize jobs and the future development of US oil and gas reserves critical to our Nation’s energy security,” Slaiby said.


More in Drilling & Completion