Earlier today the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement released its environmental assessment for Shell’s plan to drill exploration wells in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea, starting in 2012. BOEMRE has made a finding of no significant impact for Shell’s plan, a finding that represents the crossing of a major permitting hurdle for Shell’s proposal to drill two wells in its Sivulliq prospect and two wells in its Torpedo prospect. Both prospects are on the west side of Camden Bay, offshore the North Slope, to the east of Prudhoe Bay.
“The conditional approval of our plan of exploration is welcome news and adds to our cautious optimism that we will be drilling our Alaska leases by this time next year,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in a press release. “We believe the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement was thorough in its scientific and technical analysis of our plan, and we look forward to continued progress as we pursue the permits necessary to drill.”
The permits that Shell still needs before it can embark on its drilling program include an Environmental Protection Agency air quality permit for its drilling vessel and attendant fleet. On July 22 EPA issued a draft permit for the Kulluk, the floating drilling platform that Shell expects to use in the Beaufort Sea. Shell’s Arctic offshore air permits have been the subject of multiple appeals over a period of several years.
As part of its analysis of Shell’s plans BOEMRE has concluded that there is no likelihood of a very large oil spill from a well blowout during Shell’s operations, given the small number of planned wells; the very low incidence of blowout events; and the use of up-to-date spill prevention and response techniques.
See full story in Aug. 14 issue, available online at 11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 12, at www.PetroleumNews.com