August 27, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 64August 2012

Noble Discoverer heads for Chukchi as Shell asks for time extension

The drillship Noble Discoverer departed Dutch Harbor on Saturday Aug. 25, heading for the Chukchi Sea in preparation for the start of Shell’s exploration drilling, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith has told Petroleum News. Upon arrival at Shell’s planned Chukchi Sea drilling site, in anticipation of receiving the required drilling permits, the drillship will attach to anchors that have already been staged on location, Smith said.

Smith also confirmed press reports that at the weekend Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska vice president, said that Shell has asked the Department of the Interior for clarification over whether Shell’s drilling permits would allow the drilling of the top-hole sections of wells, without reaching hydrocarbon bearing zones, while Shell’s containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, is still en-route to the Arctic.

The Arctic Challenger is still in Bellingham, Wash., awaiting completion of a refit with Shell’s new Arctic oil containment system and U.S. Coast Guard certification of the vessel. Slaiby said that he expects the retrofit work and certification to be completed by the end of this week.

Shell has also proposed to the Department of the Interior that the permitted end date for Shell’s Chukchi Sea drilling program should be extended beyond Sept. 24 by nearly two weeks, Slaiby said. Apparently Shell’s forecasting models indicate that Chukchi Sea ice will start to form for the winter later than was previously thought.

—Alan Bailey

Doyon announces new Nenana basin and Yukon Flats exploration

Doyon Ltd. is continuing to move forward with exploration for oil and gas in the Nenana and Yukon Flats basins in the Alaska interior, the Alaska Native regional corporation announced today. In its latest exploration drive the corporation plans to spend more than $37 million on three initiatives:

* Converting 400,000 acres of a 485,000-acre Doyon-operated state oil and gas exploration license in the Nenana basin into state oil and gas leases.

* Drilling a new exploration well in the Nenana basin, as early as this winter.

* Conducting a new seismic survey in the Yukon Flats basin.

For several years Doyon has been investigating the oil and gas potential of the Nenana and Yukon Flats basins, in hopes of generating profits for the corporation’s shareholders, creating employment opportunities and boosting Alaska oil and gas production.

“These projects show a lot of promise,” said Doyon CEO Aaron Schutt in a press release announcing the new initiatives. “If successful, they could provide substantial benefits not just to our shareholders, but also to all Alaskans in terms of jobs and helping alleviate the energy crisis in interior Alaska.”

Recent state legislation introducing new exploration tax credits and reducing the oil and gas production taxes for “frontier basins” in Alaska “were essential to us to move forward with these essential projects,” Schutt said.

—Alan Bailey

See stories in Sept. 2 issue of Petroleum News, available online Friday, Aug. 31 at

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