The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has approved Shell‘s one application for permit to modify (APM), allowing it to drill potential oil-bearing zones offshore Alaska at one of the wells at the Burger Prospect, Burger J.

The department’s decision comes following an extensive review and under an array of safety requirements.

According to BSEE, Shell remains limited to the top section of the Burger V well.

On 6 August, the company submitted an APM to modify the Burger J application for permit to drill (APD), which previously restricted it from drilling into oil-bearing zones due to non-availability of a capping stack, as required by BSEE.

BSEE director Brian Salerno said: "Activities conducted offshore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency response standards.

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"Now that the required well control system is in place and can be deployed, Shell will be allowed to explore into oil-bearing zones for Burger J. We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship."

"We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship."

In accordance with the approved APDs, Shell has to stay away from simultaneous drilling at Burger J and V.

The APDs define limitations that are related to marine mammal protection consistent with requirements established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

During exploration activities, the company has to maintain a minimum 15 miles gap between active drill rigs in a bid to avoid significant effects on walruses in the region as required by a USFWS Letter of Authorization (LoA) that was issued on 30 June.

Shell will also have to train wildlife observers on all drilling units and support vessels to reduce impacts to protected species, as outlined in the LoA.

Image: Shell remains limited to the top section of Burger V. Photo: courtesy of Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.