Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell.

Royal Dutch Shell filed an exploration plan Friday for up to six Arctic wells with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the hopes of restarting its U.S. Arctic drilling program.

The filing is just one of the many regulatory hurdles the company will have to clear to start drilling in the U.S. waters near Alaska.

The plan calls for two rigs, one owned by Switzerland-based Transocean and one owned by UK-based Noble, to drill separate wells and also be available to provide emergency relief wells, the Financial Times said.

Shell said earlier this year that it would like to restart Arctic drilling by the summer of 2015.

The company’s Arctic drilling campaign has been fraught with regulatory hurdles and technical difficulties.

In 2012, a Shell operated drilling rig named the Kulluk broke free and ran aground in southern Alaska after the anchor handling tug supply vessel moving the rig experienced engine trouble.

A U.S. Coast Guard investigation said Shell “did not recognize the risks, nor adequately plan” for moving the rig in the harsh winter weather.

This year, Shell was forced to halt its Arctic drilling after a federal judge determined the BOEM did not properly asses environmental risks posed by the project.

The BOEM is currently working on an environmental study of Shell’s plan that the company hopes will allow it to move forward.

Shell will also need to receive permits for specific wells before drilling can begin.

Shell has spent about $6 billion securing drilling rights and the necessary infrastructure and equipment to drill in the Arctic.

The company was only able to drill two partial wells that did not encounter oil reservoirs before having to stop in 2012.

Shell is focusing its efforts on the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea.

The BOEM estimates gas reserves at Burger to be about 14 trillion cubic feet but warns that estimates remain highly speculative because the area has not been thoroughly explored.


Leave a Reply