BSEE Authorizes Shell Preparatory Activities in Chukchi Sea
Limited Activities to be Conducted in Non-Oil-Bearing Zones
WASHINGTON — As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director James A. Watson today announced that Shell will be allowed to move forward with certain limited preparatory activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska.
“It is our highest priority that any activities that occur offshore Alaska be held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency response standards,” said Watson. “Shell’s applications for permits to drill into potential oil reservoirs remain under review, and Shell will not be authorized to drill into areas that may contain oil unless and until the required spill containment system is fully certified, inspected, and located in the Arctic. Today’s announcement authorizes Shell to move forward with limited activities well short of oil-bearing zones that can be done safely now prior to the certification and arrival of the containment system.”
Under the permit approved today, Shell will be allowed to begin certain preparatory activities in the Chukchi Sea that will increase overall safety. These activities include the creation of a mudline cellar, a safety feature that ensures that the blowout preventer is adequately protected below the level of the seafloor. Shell is also authorized to drill and set the first two strings of casing into shallow non-oil-bearing zones.
Under conditions and requirements set forth in Shell’s Chukchi and Beaufort Sea Exploration Plans and Oil Spill Response Plans, which were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and BSEE respectively, Shell is required to receive certification of its containment system, which is designed to capture flowing liquid hydrocarbons in the unlikely event of a loss of well control, by the U.S. Coast Guard and have the vessel positioned in the Arctic before any drilling into oil-bearing zones can occur. BSEE engineers recently conducted an initial inspection of Shell’s containment system, but the company has yet to secure the final Coast Guard certification.
BSEE inspectors will be present on the Noble Discoverer to provide continuous oversight and monitoring of all approved activities. BSEE safety experts have already conducted thorough and comprehensive inspections of the drillship and Shell’s response equipment.
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