Regulators have significantly revised their estimates of Shell’s potential production in the Chucki Sea upwards Friday, a change that also increases the size and impact of potential spills.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that Shell could produce 4.3 billion barrels of oil at its Chucki Sea assets off the coast of Alaska.
Previous regulatory reports estimated production at 1 billion barrels.
The new report projects at least two “large spills” of over 1,000 barrels each during the lifetime of the field, with a 75 percent chance of at least one spill during the exploration and development process.
The BOEM said a spill would be most likely to occur during the production phase.
“Based on historical data, no large spills are assumed to occur during the exploration phase of oil and gas activities,” the BOEM said.
The agency said a large spill is “highly unlikely to occur during any activity phase” but if one did happen it would have a “substantial” impact.
Shell has not commented on the report yet.
The BOEM will hold seven public hearings in Alaska during November and December to discuss Shell’s proposed exploration plan. The agency will also be accepting public comments online.
Shell has already spent about $6 billion on its Alaskan exploration plan but has been unable to complete a well.
In October Shell asked 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.
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.