The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has announced its conditional approval of Shell's Chukchi Sea exploration plan. Starting this year, the company proposes drilling up to six wells in the Burger prospect, about 70 miles northwest of the Chukchi coastal village of Wainwright. The BOEM approval is subject to several conditions, including Shell obtaining all of the permits needed for its operations and the company complying with the requirements of the Marine Mammals Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
"We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives," said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. "As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards."
James Kendall, BOEM Alaska regional director, commended the team effort involved in reviewing Shell's plan.
"We'd like to thank the experts in our cooperating agencies, the tribal government representatives who took time out from their busy schedules to do government-to-government consultations and of course the many members of the public and stakeholder organizations who provided us with valuable comments during the review process," Kendall said.
Shell hopes to start moving its drilling fleet into the Chukchi in early July. An approved exploration plan is a key requirement for implementing the drilling program.
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in May 17 issue, available online Friday, May 15 at www.PetroleumNews.com