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Vol. 15, No. 33 Week of August 15, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Statoil survey fleet heads for Chukchi

District court judge clarifies Chukchi Sea injunction and agencies issue remaining permits in time for 2010 open water season

Alan Bailey

Petroleum News

On Aug. 6, after a nail-biting few days waiting for clarification of a court injunction, Statoil finally received the last of the permits for its 2010 seismic survey program in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued a geophysical and geological exploration permit for the seismic work on Aug. 5, with the National Marine Fisheries Service incidental harassment authorization coming a day later, Karin Berentsen , Statoil’s Alaska HSE and stakeholder advisor, told Petroleum News Aug. 6. The seismic fleet, which had been waiting in the port of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands for resolution of the permitting holdup, has set sail for the Chukchi, Berentsen said Aug. 11.

Fugro-Geoteam, the firm that is doing the seismic work for Statoil, is using the seismic survey vessel Geo Celtic and two support vessels. The fleet should arrive in the survey area on the weekend of Aug. 14, ready to prepare for action, Berentsen said.

“It takes some time (on site) to deploy the equipment and do what they call ‘sound source verification’,” she said.

Statoil plans to conduct a 3-D seismic survey focused on its Chukchi Sea leases, jointly owned with Italian major Eni Petroleum. Following the 3-D survey, Statoil may proceed to do a 2-D survey over a broader area of the Chukchi.

Revised injunction

The permitting logjam cleared on Aug. 5 when Alaska District Court Judge Ralph Beistline issued a revised version of a court injunction against oil and gas lease related activities in the Chukchi Sea. The revised order makes it clear that Statoil’s planned 2010 Chukchi Sea seismic program does not fall within the scope of the injunction. Neither does the injunction apply to some environmental studies, geotechnical surveys and shallow hazard surveys that Shell plans to carry out in the Chukchi Sea this year.

Beistline had issued the injunction on July 21 in response to an appeal against the U.S. Minerals Management Service 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in which both Shell and Statoil had picked up leases. The judge banned all activities relating to leases purchased in that lease sale until the U.S. Department of Interior reworks some aspects of the sale’s environmental impact statement.

Uncertainty around the scope of the injunction had delayed issue of both the G&G permit and the incidental harassment authorization that Statoil needed before it could start its seismic work. Statoil had said that if it had not obtained the remaining permits by Aug. 6 it would likely have had to cancel its Chukchi seismic program in 2010 — the seismic survey will probably take 60 days to complete and it is possible that sea ice could form in the survey area by late September.

On July 30 Statoil filed a statement explaining the company’s predicament to the court and, on the same day, BOEMRE filed a motion requesting a clarification of the injunction by Aug. 3, to enable the G&G permit to be issued. Judge Beistline declined to meet the Aug. 3 deadline but did issue the clarified version of the injunction in time to enable Statoil’s survey program to proceed.



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