ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal offshore drilling regulators on Wednesday approved Shell Oil’s spill response plan for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea, drawing strong criticism from environmental groups that claim oil companies cannot clean up oil in ice-choked waters.
The announcement by the Interior Department‘s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said the decision followed the agency’s thorough review of the plan for Arctic Ocean waters off Alaska’s north coast. The agency in February approved Shell’s oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.
Shell hopes to drill exploratory wells in both locations during the summer open-water season using separate drilling ships. Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said in an email that the approval is a major milestone.
“It further reinforces that Shell’s approach to Arctic exploration is aligned with the high standards the Department of Interior expects from an offshore leader and adds to our confidence that drilling will finally commence in the shallow waters off Alaska this summer,” he said.
The federal government estimates 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are in the Arctic Ocean’s outer continental shelf reserves.
Shell’s response plan calls for more than a dozen vessels accompanying the drilling ships. One would carry a capping stack that could be lowered to the ocean bottom to control a blowout. Skimmers and boom would be on board other vessels and the flotilla would include a tanker to hold captured crude oil.
- Shell Arctic Spill Response Plan Approved (snspost.com)
- The Department Of Interior’s Contradictory Policies On Arctic Drilling (thinkprogress.org)
- Shell Arctic Spill Response Plan Approved (huffingtonpost.com)