The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) has approved conditionally Shell’s Revised Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan set to begin this year.
Shell still must get approval from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) regarding its Oil Spill Response Plan and well-specific applications for permit to drill. Shell must also obtain permits from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
If the exploration and approvals process allow, Shell proposes to drill up to six exploration wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea beginning in the 2012 drilling season.
Shell currently is evaluating the conditions stated in the approval, particularly one that could limit the Chukchi drilling season. BOEM says Shell must cease drilling into zones capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons 38 days before the first-date of ice encroachment over the drill site. Based on a five-year analysis of historic weather patterns, BOEM anticipates November 1 as the earliest anticipated date of ice encroachment. The 38-day period would also provide a window for the drilling of a relief well, should one be required.
Other conditions are concerned with Shell’s measures taken to mitigate oil spill risk and the availability of spill response equipment in the Chukchi Sea.