Shell Submits New Plans for Exploring Arctic

Thursday, November 07 2013

Shell's Noble Discoverer drill rig. / KUCB

Shell Oil is taking measures to revive its troubled Arctic drilling program.

On Wednesday, the company filed an updated Arctic exploration plan with the Alaska office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

John Callahan is a public affairs officer for BOEM. He says that even though it's based off the exploration plan Shell used in 2012, the new plan is a lot shorter.

"And what Shell submitted just focuses on the changed parts," Callahan says.

This time, Shell left out their Beaufort Sea leases, because the specialized Kulluk rig the company used for that region is still out of commission from when it ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year's Eve 2012. That means Shell is focusing solely on the Chukchi Sea.

Callahan says the exploration plan will go through the same review process that BOEM used last time.

"The first thing that happens is we have our folks look over it and determine whether all the required components are there, in order to launch a more thorough review," Callahan says.

BOEM has 15 business days to request additional information from Shell, before launching into a 30-day review. At that time, Callahan says BOEM will put the exploration plan online and start taking public comments on it.

Shell isn't taking questions from reporters about their drilling plans. But they put out a short statement this week, saying, "We will continue to take a methodical approach to this exploration phase and will only proceed if the program meets the conditions necessary to proceed safely and responsibly."

That's not enough to satisfy some environmentalists. The Ocean Conservancy called the 2014 exploration plan "premature" and accused the company of rushing back to the Arctic.

For now, Shell is the only oil company that's publicly considering whether to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2014.

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