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Shell have been told they will not be able to re-enter the Arctic again without overhauling its plans, after a review by a US Government agency found the company entered the Arctic without finalising key components of its programme.

The review of Shell’s 2012 drilling programme, conducted by the US Department of the Interior at the request of the Interior Secretary, focused on the company’s failure to obtain certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, on a timely basis and the deployment difficulty of the Arctic Challenger’s containment dome.

"Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration less they have this integrated management plan put in place," the Guardian quoted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as saying.

The report also looked at serious marine transport issues in connection with both of Shell’s two drilling rigs, Noble Discoverer and Kulluk. The Kulluk ran aground in Gulf of Alaska waters during a towing operation on New Year’s Eve.

Releasing the report, Interior Secretary Salazar said exploration in the Arctic is an important part of the Obama administration’s energy strategy and it is vital to understand the oil and gas potential of the region.

"We have said all along that exploration in the challenging and sensitive environment of the Arctic must be done cautiously and subject to the highest safety and environmental standards," he added.

"This assessment took a close look at Shell and the problems they encountered offshore Alaska last year, and makes important recommendations that Shell should follow as it resumes its Arctic programme."

"The report looked at serious marine transport issues in connection with both of Shell’s two drilling rigs, Noble Discoverer and Kulluk."

Earlier this month, Shell suspended its exploration drilling activity in Alaska’s Arctic seas in 2013.

Commenting on the review report, Land and Minerals Management principal deputy assistant secretary Tommy Beaudreau, who also led the review team, said: "Shell simply did not maintain strong, direct oversight of some of its key contractors."

"Working in the Arctic requires thorough advance planning and preparation, rigorous management focus, a close watch over contractors and reliance on experienced, specialized operators who are familiar with the uniquely challenging conditions of the Alaskan offshore," Beaudreau added.

The report has said the company should submit a comprehensive and integrated plan to the Interior Department, describing every phase of its operation, from preparations through to demobilisation.

In addition, the report has advised the company to complete a full third-party management system audit, to confirm that its management systems are skilled enough for Arctic conditions.

The report also said that an Arctic-specific model is necessary and has recommended continuing work on safety and environmental practices, which are suitable for the region.


Image: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Photo courtesy of Department of the Interior.

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