Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell.

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said Thursday that his company is planning to restart its Arctic drilling activities later this year.

Shell suspended its Arctic program in 2014 after facing numerous technical set backs and opposition from environmentalist groups.

Van Beurden told Reuters he plans to restart the campaign this year, pending the appropriate approvals.

Shell has not disclosed a timeline for the restart.

“Yes, we are minded to drill in the Chucki Sea,” van Beurden said.

The company has been negotiating with Washington state officials to use the Port of Seattle as its home port for the Arctic program.

Several state and national groups have asked Seattle city leaders to stop its negotiations with the company, the Alaska Dispatch News said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a new Interior Department plan to issue one license each in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea and Cook Inlet areas.

In September, Shell filed an exploration plan for up to six Arctic wells with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the hopes of restarting its program.

Shell currently either partly or fully owns 134 of the 141 active oil and gas leases in the Beaufort Sea in offshore Alaska.

The company’s previous tenure in the U.S. Arctic was fraught with technical issues and legal troubles.

In 2012, the Shell operated Kulluk drilling rig 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.

Shell was only able to drill two partial wells that drilled dry before having to stop in 2012 after a federal judge determined the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement did not properly asses environmental risks posed by the project.

In November, a federal appeals court rejected an attempt by Royal Dutch Shell to preemptively strike down potential legal challenges against its U.S. Arctic drilling campaign.

The case has not be decided yet.

The company has spent over $6 billion securing drilling rights and the necessary infrastructure and equipment to drill in the Arctic.


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