BOEM kicks off formal review of Shell's Arctic drilling plan


ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) deemed Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.’s revised multi-year Chukchi Sea exploration plan (EP) as ready for a formal review Friday and invited the public to submit their views on the plan.  

The revised EP describes Shell’s proposal to conduct exploration drilling in the shallow waters of the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf, off the northwest coast of Alaska.

An EP describes all exploration activities planned by the operator for a specific lease or leases, including the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and actions to be taken to meet safety and environmental standards and to protect access to subsistence resources.

“We will be carefully scrutinizing this revised EP to determine whether it meets stringent environmental and regulatory standards,” said Dr. James Kendall, the director of BOEM’s Alaska OCS Region. “We have posted Shell’s revised EP online, and we invite the public and all interested stakeholders to review the document and provide us with comments.”

After determining that the revised EP and accompanying information submitted by Shell are sufficient to begin a full regulatory and environmental analysis, BOEM deemed the revised EP submitted.

The bureau now has 30 calendar days to analyze and evaluate the revised EP in accordance with federal law. As part of this analysis, the bureau will prepare a site-specific Environmental Assessment (EA) of the proposed exploration activities pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Shell’s revised EP proposes to continue the multi-year Chukchi Sea exploration drilling program the company began in July 2012. This program includes drilling up to six wells within the Burger Prospect, located in approximately 140 ft of water about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright, Alaska.

Shell would conduct its operations using the drillship M/V Noble Discoverer and the semisubmersible rig Polar Pioneer, with each vessel providing relief-well capability for the other. The two units and their supporting vessels would depart the Chukchi Sea at the conclusion of each exploration drilling season.

Upon completion of the technical and environmental analysis, BOEM will decide whether to approve the revised EP, require modifications, or disapprove it. Prior to conducting any operations, in addition to BOEM’s review of the EP, Shell will need to receive approval from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and other relevant Federal agencies.

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