The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has issued final air quality permits for Shell to operate the Noble Discoverer drillship for exploratory drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas, starting in the Arctic open water season of 2012. The air quality permits represent a key piece of the required permitting for Shell’s planned Arctic outer continent shelf drilling. The permits will allow the Noble Discoverer and its attendant fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels and supply ships to operate for up to 120 days each year in the two seas offshore northern Alaska.
EPA says that the new permits take account of issues raised during a successful appeal against earlier permits issued to Shell in 2010. Any petition for review of the new permits must be submitted by Oct. 24, the agency says.
Shell actually plans to use the Noble Discoverer for drilling in the Chukchi Sea, with the company deploying its floating drilling platform, the Kulluk, for drilling in the Beaufort Sea. The company has applied for an air quality permit for the operation of the Kulluk and its attendant fleet in the Beaufort – Shell has said that it anticipates the issue of that permit in mid-October.
“The issuance of these permits comes on the heels of BOEMRE’s conditional approval of Shell’s Beaufort Sea plan of exploration and adds significantly to our confidence that we will be permitted to explore our leases in the Alaska offshore,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in response to today’s EPA announcement. “Shell has been in pursuit of a usable air permit for nearly five years. We appreciate the effort EPA Region 10 has made to evaluate our program and issue final permits that are technically and scientifically sound.”
Editor’s note: See full story in the Sept. 25 issue of Petroleum News, which will be available online by 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept.23 at petroleumnews.com