March 13, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 17March 2012

Companies plan for Arctic OCS drilling

During the National Marine Fisheries’ annual Arctic Open Water Meeting in Anchorage on March 6 to 8 Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil all presented their plans for exploration drilling in the outer continental shelf of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Shell, the company expecting to be first out of the starting block for Alaska Arctic OCS drilling, described its plans for drilling up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea and up to two wells in the Beaufort Sea between July and October this year, using the drilling vessel Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk floating drilling platform. The company plans to drill in the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea and in the Sivulliq and Torpedo prospects in the Beaufort Sea, Michael Macrander, Shell’s science team lead in Alaska, told the meeting.

Shell will deploy a self-contained oil spill response fleet in support of each of its drilling operations, with a new well capping stack and a well containment system stationed at a mid-point between the operations, ready to move into action in the highly unlikely event of a well blowout and a blowout preventer failure, Macrander said.

ConocoPhillips expects to drill one well per year in the Chukchi Sea Devil’s Paw prospect, starting in 2014 and using a jack-up drilling rig, Mike Faust, the company’s Chukchi Sea exploration project manager, told the meeting. The company has submitted its Chukchi Sea exploration and oil spill response plans to the relevant agencies within the Department of the Interior and is in the process of doing the detailed planning for its project, hoping to have the vessels and drilling rig that it needs under contract by the end of this year.

As part of its oil spill prevention arrangements, ConocoPhillips plans to have a well capping stack installed on the seafloor during drilling operations.

Lars Sunde, head of Statoil’s Alaska operations, told the meeting that his company also anticipates starting drilling in the Chukchi Sea in 2014 using a jack-up rig. The company is in the process of planning its drilling operation and hopes to nominate a suitable rig by the middle of this year. Statoil has surveyed five well locations that potentially could be drilled over multiple drilling seasons, but is still evaluating which wells to drill, Sunde said.

Representatives from North Slope communities expressed continuing concerns about the potential for discharges or spilled oil from offshore oil and gas operations contaminating the marine wildlife that the communities depend on for subsistence food.

—Alan Bailey

See stories in March 18 issue, available online at 11 a.m., Friday, March 16 at

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