The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced today that it has issued a revised drilling permit, allowing Shell to drill its Chukchi Sea Burger J well into potential hydrocarbon bearing zones.
Shell started drilling the well on July 30 but, in the absence of the company's capping stack, an essential item of safety equipment for drilling into oil-bearing rocks, the company's initial drilling permit prohibited drilling into hydrocarbons. The capping stack, which needs to be deployable within 24 hours at the drilling location, is housed on the icebreaker the M/V Fennica. The Fennica had to be repaired in Portland, Oregon, after sustaining damage near Dutch Harbor in early July - as a consequence the capping stack was not available in the Chukchi when Shell's drilling started.
But, having been repaired, the Fennica is now on station in the Chukchi with the capping stack, thus enabling BSEE to allow drilling into hydrocarbons.
"Activities conducted offshore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency response standards," said BSEE Director Brian Salerno when announcing the issue today of the revised drilling permit. "Now that the required well control system is in place and can be deployed, Shell will be allowed to explore into oil-bearing zones for Burger J. We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship."
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in Aug. 23 issue, available online Friday, Aug. 21 at www.PetroleumNews.com