Shell fires up Arctic drill plan

City A.M. Reporter
ROYAL DUTCH SHELL yesterday submitted plans to explore for oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, as it continues its long-delayed bid to tap vast oil and gas resources in Arctic waters.

Shell’s proposal calls for up to three wells off the Northwestern coast of Alaska in 2012 and up to three more in 2013, a Shell spokeswoman said.

Shell has been trying to revive its Arctic exploration programme after strong opposition from local and environmental groups stymied previous drilling plans in the area.

A plan to drill at least one Beaufort Sea well this year was scuppered by the revocation of a key air-quality permit.

Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill also hindered Shell’s Arctic push, with the Obama administration delaying drilling activity and implementing a raft of new requirements for oil explorers.

Shell said it hopes to break through the regulatory impasse this time around.

“We believe the conversations we are having with regulators and government officials are more positive in view of the safeguards we have put in place,” company spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said in a statement.

“As a result, we are cautiously optimistic, and we see there is agreement in the importance of this domestic resource and in the absolute necessity that development must be done right,” she said.

US authorities will have 30 days to decide whether to approve Shell’s plans.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about Shell’s ability to protect the environment and respond effectively to an oil spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.