Formal Review of Arctic Drilling Plan Begins
The U.S. Interior Department began the review process of Royal Dutch Shell’s revised drilling exploration plan on Friday.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has until May 10 to approve or reject Shell’s plan, and the public has until April 20 to comment on environmental factors and until May 1 to comment on the plan as a whole.
Late last month, the Obama administration upheld a 2008 Arctic lease sale, clearing an important hurdle for Shell. On March 31, the Department of the Interior issued a Record of Decision lifting the suspensions on Chukchi Sea leases after a thorough environmental analysis and substantial opportunity for public input.
“The Arctic is an important component of the Administration’s national energy strategy, and we remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “This unique, sensitive and often challenging environment requires effective oversight to ensure all activities are conducted safely and responsibly.”
The original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Lease Sale 193 was published in 2007 but faced legal challenges resulting in a Federal court decision that remanded the lease sale back to BOEM for further analysis.
In response, BOEM conducted additional analysis to estimate the highest amount of production that could reasonably result from Lease Sale 193 and incorporated that information into a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) that was published in February 2015.
Dr. James Kendall, director of BOEM’s Alaska OEM Region, stated that the new plan submitted by Shell will be carefully scrutinized to determine whether it meets strict environmental and regulatory standards, and invites the public as well as all interested stakeholders to review the plan and submit comments.
The new plan proposes its continued multi-year Chukchi Sea drilling exploration that initially began in July 2012. The program outlines the drilling of up to six wells within the Burger Prospect that would be completed using the drillship M/V Noble Discoverer and the semi-submersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer. The vessels would be removed from the Chukchi at the conclusion of each drilling season.