Chukchi Sea

Shell has received its key safety vessel repaired and applied to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to modify its federal exploratory drilling permit.

The amended permit will allow the company to drill into oil-bearing rock in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s north-west coast.

In July, BSEE gave conditional approval to Shell’s two applications for permits to drill (APD) to conduct exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea, offshore Alaska.

The APDs prohibit the company from drilling into oil-bearing zones and restricted it to drill only the top sections of wells at the Burger Prospect, Burger J and V.

During that time, BSEE limited its permit and asked the company to stay away from digging into petroleum zones roughly 8,000ft below the ocean floor as the equipment was not on hand to handle a possible well blowout.

If Shell has plans to drill into oil-bearing zones a critical piece of emergency response equipment called a capping stack should be on hand and deployable within 24 hours, under BSEE requirements.

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At that time, the stack was positioned on a leased Finnish icebreaker M/V Fennica vessel, which was on the way to Portland, Oregon, for repairs.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told AP that the company got the Fennica repaired and applied to drill into oil-bearing rock.

At its Burger Prospect, located 70 miles off Alaska’s north-west coast, Shell has two drill vessels. These are a semi-submersible drilling unit Polar Pioneer and a Noble Discover.

Image: Spring breakup of sea ice on the Chukchi Sea. Photo: courtesy of P199.