Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic September 17, 2012 - 3:14 pm

No more drilling offshore Alaska until 2013: Shell

"We will not conduct any operation until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to do it safely"


A third of the worlds untapped gas reserves and about 13 per cent of its oil is thought to lie under Arctic waters — but tapping into this rich resource has eluded Royal Dutch Shell in 2012.

The oil and gas giant Shell called off some of its main drilling activities offshore northern Alaska Sept. 17.

Shell said it had successfully completed a series of tests of the “first-ever Arctic Containment System.”

However, during a final test, the containment dome — a metal device which sits on a barge, ready to deploy if there’s an oil spill from a well blowout — was damaged aboard the Arctic Challenger barge, Shell said.

“It is clear that some days will be required to repair and fully assess dome readiness. We are disappointed that the dome has not yet met our stringent acceptance standards; but, as we have said all along, we will not conduct any operation until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to do it safely,” Shell said in a news release.

The time required to repair the dome, along with time taken, “to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice floe movement,” means Shell decided to revise its plans for the 2012-2013 exploration program.

“In order to lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013, we will forgo drilling into hydrocarbon zones this year. Instead, we will begin as many wells, known as ‘top holes,’ as time remaining in this season allows. The top portion of the wells drilled in the days and weeks ahead will be safely capped and temporarily abandoned this year, in accordance with regulatory requirements,” the company said.

Shell’s ship, the Noble Discoverer, is expected to resume its position and drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea in the days ahead, the company said.

Last week, after less than a day of “historic” drilliing offshore Alaska’s North Slope, Shell decided to stop drilling in the Chukchi Sea due to sea ice.

As a precautionary measure, the oil company said Sept. 10 that it would temporarily move off its Burger-A well to avoid “potentially encroaching sea ice.”

Also, in the coming days, Shell is expected to begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea.

“These operations will follow the conclusion of the fall whale hunt and the anticipated receipt of a top hole drilling permit,” the company said.

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