Image courtesy of Shell.

Shell has asked U.S. regulators for a five year suspension for its operations in offshore Alaska as the company deals with multiple legal and technical hurdles that have forced it to “reconceive” its exploration plan.

In a letter to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Shell said it has faced “heavy constraints” on exploring its leases in Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf.

The letter was sent in July and was obtained by the environmentalist group Oceania through the Freedom of Information Act.

The company said it has contended with “multiple time-consuming federal court and administrative challenges” on top of the BSEE’s attempts to impose a fixed operational time constraint for drilling in the company’s Chuki Exploration Plan.

Severe weather conditions, a limited supply of Arctic viable drilling rigs and three lost drilling seasons since 2010 have also delayed the company’s exploration plan.

Shell said the various hurdles its faced in the U.S. Arctic will not allow it to execute its exploration plan before its leases expire.

The company said it also can’t “catch up” by shifting its resources to the leases that are set to expire first.

In September, Shell signaled that it might be ramping up its Arctic efforts after it filed a revised plan for up to six Arctic wells with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

The plan has not been approved yet.

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.


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