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December 07, 2009 --- Vol. 15, No. 93December 2009

MMS conditionally approves Shell Chukchi exploration plan

The U.S. Minerals Management Service has conditionally approved Shells’ proposed Chukchi outer continental shelf 2010 exploration plan.

But that’s not to say Shell will be drilling next year.

In its Dec. 7 letter of conditional approval of Shell’s exploration plan, MMS said because of the vacation and remand of the 2007-12 five-year oil and gas leasing program by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Secretary of the Interior told the court “MMS will act upon exploration plans for Chukchi Sea leases, but will suspend activities under any approved plan pending the Secretary’s reconsideration decision on the remanded program, thereby halting all but data gathering ancillary activities on those leases.”

MMS said it would direct a suspension of operations and that no exploration drilling activities can be conducted under the exploration plan until the suspension of operations has been terminated.

Exploratory drilling also requires a number of other state and federal approvals.

Shell said in a Dec. 7 statement that the approval was another positive step toward the company’s goal of drilling in 2010.

The company said the conditional approval of the Chukchi exploration plan adds significance to the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet issued an air discharge permit for the drilling rig. Shell said it is critical that it receives that permit in a timely manner “to enable a go-ahead decision on our 2010 program.”

See story in Dec. 13 issue, available online at noon, Friday Dec. 11 at www.PetroleumNews.com

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