Crew members landing on the Noble Discoverer rig. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell/Flickr.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Monday it has started a formal review of Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to restart its U.S. Arctic exploration program.

The plan calls for Shell to drill six exploration wells using the Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer rigs at its currently approved sites in the offshore Burger Prospect.

The wells would be drilled in the shallow waters of the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf, about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

“We will be carefully scrutinizing this revised [exploration plan] to determine whether it meets stringent environmental and regulatory standards,” director of BOEM’s Alaska OCS Region Dr. James Kendall said.

The BOEM has 30 days to analyze and evaluate the revised exploration plan.

As part of its analysis, the bureau will prepare a site-specific environmental assessment of the proposed exploration activities.

Shell moved one step closer to restarting its Arctic drilling program earlier this month after the U.S. Interior Department lifted a court ordered suspension of its Chukchi Sea leases.

The company won the rights to its offshore Alaska leases in 2008 but a January 2014 federal court decision had suspended the leases until further study from the BOEM.

The Interior Department is currently considering a request made by Shell to extend its time in the U.S. Arctic.

Last week half a dozen Greenpeace members illegally boarded the Polar Pioneer rig about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii to protest Shell’s Arctic drilling plans.

Shell’s revised exploration plan is available here.



Leave a Reply