Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell/Flickr.

Royal Dutch Shell said Tuesday that it may be able to kick off its offshore Alaska drilling campaign in late July.

According to Reuters, the company could start its long awaited Arctic exploration campaign as soon as the third week in July, when the area’s ice is expected to start breaking up.

The company’s Polar Pioneer rig arrived in Alaska’s Dutch Harbor on Saturday where it will stay until the ice in the Chukchi Sea area begins to clear away.

“As of today, our in-house experts are forecasting the third week in July will present the first opportunity to begin drilling operations over our Burger prospects,” a Shell spokesperson told Reuters.

The company added that the drilling window could change depending on the ice conditions.

Shell is allowed to begin drilling at its Burger prospect in offshore Alaska on July 15.

The company’s  Arctic drilling plan won conditional approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in May after two years of legal battles.

The plan calls for up to six wells to be drilled at the Burger Prospect in water depths of 140 feet about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The plan is being challenged by several environmental groups who allege it violates a 2013 Fish and Wildlife Service rule designed to protect walruses and other marine life in the area.

The rule prohibits companies operating in the Chukchi Sea from drilling simultaneous wells within 15 miles of each other.

The U.S. Interior Department said the Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing Shell’s plan to ensure that “measures are in place to minimize potential disturbances to walrus and other marine mammals.”


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