Shell Ready to Drill for Oil


Published Aug 12, 2015 6:28 AM by The Maritime Executive

Shell said on Tuesday that it has told the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement it is ready to drill for oil now in the Chukchi Sea.

The Guardian reports that a spokeswoman for the company said: “Fennica is in the Chukchi Sea, drilling continues, and we have requested the permit to drill deeper in this exploration well.”

The Fennica had to return to the U.S. for repairs in July after puncturing its hull on shoals in Alaska's Dutch Harbor. The vessel carries well blowout equipment required on-site before Shell is allowed to drill into oil-bearing horizons. 

Wildlife Disturbance

Polar Pioneer commenced drilling in July and a second rig, Noble Discoverer, is on site but unable to operate. U.S. regulations prevent both rigs drilling at the same time, as it could create undesirable noise disturbance to local walrus populations. 

The drilling is strongly opposed by environmental groups that say industrial activity will harm polar bears, walrus, seals and whales already vulnerable from global warming and shrinking summer sea ice.

The second rig is also required nearby in order to sink an emergency relief well to divert pressure from a blowout – a standard Shell has lobbied hard to water down, says The Guardian.

Coast Guard Resources Diverted

The U.S. Coast Guard has sent five ships to the area to ensure Shell meets its environmental and safety commitments. The vessels include the cutter Waesche which would otherwise be operating on drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard has also set up a helicopter base in Deadhorse, Alaska, with two Jayhawk helicopters that would normally be on standby for search and rescue in Kodiak, reports Reuters.

In 2012, the last time Shell explored in the Arctic, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 18 Shell workers from the drilling rig Kulluk when it was out-of-control in stormy seas.

Shell’s drilling program is expected to be completed in October.