The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has received a multi-year exploration plan (EP) from Shell Gulf of Mexico to conduct exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf in Alaska.
Shell’s EP proposal includes continuation of the multi-year Chukchi Sea exploration-drilling programme that started in 2012.
The programme includes drilling of six wells within the Burger Prospect, located 70 miles north-west of the village of Wainwright.
Shell is expected to use semi-submersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer and M/V Noble Discoverer drillship, and each vessel is expected to provide relief-well capability to the other.
BOEM will analyse and evaluate the EP in regards to the federal law within 30 calendar days, and make a decision after technical and environmental assessments.
The Dutch oil and gas company will also need approval from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and other relevant federal agencies prior to starting exploration.
Greenpeace has been protesting against Shell’s activities in Alaska.
Last week, six volunteers from the organisation have scaled on to Polar Pioneer prompting Shell to approach a court to seek an injunction.
However, the activists have left the 38,000t platform during the weekend due to worsening weather conditions at sea.
Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said: "It’s astounding that Shell seems to think it has the right to jeopardise our environment and our economy, without being accountable to society.
"I thank the climbers for being society’s eyes and ears on Shell’s rig, letting them know that millions of us are watching their every move, because there is simply no such a thing as ‘safe’ drilling in the Arctic."
The Polar Pioneer is being transported on a long heavy-lift vessel Blue Marlin.
Image: Greenpeace activists climbing on to Polar Pioneer last week. Photo: Courtesy of Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace.