Shell Starts Beaufort Sea Oil Drilling

Oil drilling activity has been started by Royal Dutch Shell Plc of a Beaufort Sea well located off Alaska’s northern region, making good on oil exploration plans that had been delayed by technical issues and the meeting of new preparation requirements for any possible offshore oil spill.

According to the company, it recently began its oil drilling activity at its Sivulliq prospect after obtaining clearance from the Inupiat Eskimo whalers, who just finished their bowhead whale hunt for the autumn. Based on the plans, the operations should stop by the close of October.

In terms of the secluded Chukchi Sea’s oil exploration well started in the past month located off Alaska’s northwestern area, Shell is only allowed by authorities to drill low depths that are quite short of crude-bearing reservoirs. The issued permits of the United States Bureau of Environmental Safety and Enforcement only allow oil drilling of what is called a “top-hole” since Shell hasn’t yet complied with the oil-spill rules.

Shell was not able to obtain clearance from the Coast Guard of the United States for an oil-spill barge during the past month’s sea trials in the region of the Puget Sound. Shell made an announcement that the Arctic Challenger barge won’t be available for the present year in Alaska. However, the fixes should be finished in time for the open-water drilling season in the coming year.

According to Shell, it has already spent almost $4.5 billion as of this time on its offshore oil exploration project in Alaska, starting with the buying of federal oil leases in the years 2005, 2007 and 2008. However, oil drilling was stalled by strong opposition from locals and environmentalists, regulatory changes and unfavorable court rulings imposed right after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010 at the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal officials say that the distance of the Sivulliq prospect being drilled by the Kulluk rig is 16 miles offshore. As for the Burger prospect located in Chukchi, which is being drilled by Shell using the Noble Discoverer drillship, the distance is around 70 miles offshore.

By: Chris Termeer