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Shell Starts Exploratory Drilling in Beaufort Sea, Alaska

Shell has kicked off exploratory drilling at its prospect in the Beaufort Sea, offshore Alaska, the company yesterday announced on its website.

On October 3, 2012, at approximately 2:45PM AKDT, the Kulluk began drilling at Shell’s Sivulliq prospect. Shell has noted that the occasion is historic in that it’s the first time two rigs have been drilling simultaneously offshore Alaska in over two decades. The Noble Discoverer has been drilling at Shell’s Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea since September.

“In the weeks ahead we look forward to operating safely and responsibly, putting Americans to work and adding to Shell’s long, successful history of drilling offshore Alaska,” said Pete Slaiby, VP Alaska.

Bought by Shell in 2005, the Kulluk was specifically designed and constructed for extended season drilling operations in Arctic waters.

Shell Starts Exploratory Drilling in Beaufort Sea, Alaska| Offshore Energy Today.

VIDEO: Shell Starts Drilling in Chukchi Sea, Alaska

 

VIDEO: Shell Starts Drilling in Chukchi Sea, Alaska| Offshore Energy Today

Shell Alaska yesterday began drilling operations at its Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea, offshore Alaska. The Noble Discoverer drillship is being used for the operations.

“The occasion is historic. It’s the first time a drill bit has touched the sea floor in the U.S. Chukchi Sea in more than two decades. Today marks the culmination of Shell’s six-year effort to explore for potentially significant oil and gas reserves, which are believed to lie under Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. In the days to come, drilling will continue in the Chukchi Sea, and we will prepare for drilling to commence in the Beaufort Sea,” said the company in a press release.

VIDEO: Shell Starts Drilling in Chukchi Sea, Alaska| Offshore Energy Today.

 

USA: ABS to Class Unique Arctic Containment System

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The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has announced it will class the first-of-its-kind Arctic Containment System (ACS), which will serve all exploration activities in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas offshore Alaska. The ACS will be deployed in June 2012.

ABS explains that a modular oil containment system will be installed on the deck of the non self-propelled ice-strengthened barge following its conversion to a floating offshore installation  The dedicated barge will remain unmanned and on standby until deployed. Then, assisted by a tugboat, its trained crew will be able to respond to an oil spill incident in the exploration areas in a matter of days.

Shell has plans to drill up to six exploration wells off the coast of Alaska, later this year and has contracted with Superior Energy, the operator of the ACS, for the containment system to be available during the summer drilling season. The containment system would be able to mitigate spillage in the time it takes to drill an intervention well.

The oil giant’s Arctic drilling plans have been facing strong opposition from environmental activists. Today, twenty Greenpeace activists boarded two icebreakers leased by Shell from Finland’s Arctia Offshore. Shell has leased the vessels to support its upcoming drilling operations offshore Alaska.

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USA: EAB Rejects Appeals for Review of Shell’s Noble Discoverer OCS Air Permits

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Shell announced on its website that the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) denied all petitions for review of Shell’s Noble Discoverer OCS air permits.

As a result, Shell has, for the first time, usable air permits that will allow the Noble Discoverer to work in the Alaska OCS beginning in 2012.

“Achieving usable permits from the EPA is a very important step for Shell and one of the strongest indicators to date that we will be exploring our Beaufort and Chukchi leases in July. That our air permits for the Noble Discoverer withstood appeal is a testament to the robust nature of the work we have done to have the smallest possible impact on the Arctic air shed and further validates that Shell is a company uniquely-positioned to deliver a world-class drilling program in the Alaska offshore.  We look forward to continued progress on the permitting front and remain committed to working with regulators and stakeholders to achieve all of the permits necessary to drill in 2012.” reads Shell’s statement.

Wilderness Society Director, Lois Epstein, recently expressed her opinion in which she assumed that neither Alaskans, the Nation nor Shell is, “ready to drill safely in the Arctic.” Ms. Epstein signed-on to a letter that claims Shell should be denied Arctic air permits because emissions from their  drilling rigs and oil spill response fleet will accelerate global warming.

Pete Slaiby, Shell Alaska VP responded that “Shell has been arctic-ready for years”, saying that Shell and others have successfully drilled over 35 wells in the Alaska offshore without incident and that “Shell, alone, has dedicated more resources to Arctic science in the last five years than all Federal agencies combined.”

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BP, Shell to partake in arctic drilling inquiry, Telegraph says

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The Noble Discoverer drill ship is shown near Alaska. Shell Oil Co., plans to use the ship for drilling in the Beaufort Sea. (Photo courtesy of Shell Oil Co.)

by Bloomberg

BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Cairn Energy Plc are among companies that may be asked to provide information on drilling in the Arctic to the U.K.’s Environmental Audit Committee later this year, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing Committee Chairman Joan Walley.

The committee’s Protecting the Arctic inquiry will include both onshore and offshore drilling in the Arctic Circle, the newspaper said.

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Guggenheim Partners announces Arctic investment fund

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Environmentalists fear the move by the privately held investment firm based in the US will accelerate exploitation of the region

Leo Hickman
guardian.co.uk

Guggenheim Partners, a privately held investment firm based in the US, which manages more than $125bn worth of assets on behalf of its clients, has confirmed it is setting up a new fund dedicated to making investments in the Arctic region.

The news has been criticised by environmentalists who fear that it will further accelerate the exploitation by oil and shipping companies of the region which is being made even more accessible by climate change.

The fund was first revealed over the weekend at a conference held by the Juneau World Affairs Council in the Alaskan capital on the “politics of climate change“. Alice Rogoff, the publisher of Alaska Dispatch who is married to one of America’s wealthiest men, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, told the conference that she had learned Guggenheim Partners was planning a fund “worth billions”. She added that it might concentrate first on building a privately funded icebreaker, which could then be leased to the US coastguard.

There have been growing calls in Alaska for a $1bn “heavy” ice breaker which could be used not just to help tackle any possible oil spills and perform search and rescue duties, but also further secure new shipping routes into the area. Shell confirmed last year that it is already building two of its own icebreakers in preparation of it being granted an extended permit to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas from next year onwards.

Mead Treadwell, Alaska’s lieutenant general, said the fund was a “major announcement” for the region, adding that the Alaskan Arctic also currently lacks a deepwater port. Without such a port available, he said, oil companies would incur extra costs by having to supply a “flotilla” of support vessels when drilling at sea.

The Guggenheim Partners website posted a link to an Alaska Dispatch story about the fund, but a company spokesman refused to provide any specific details. “We are in the very early planning stages for an Arctic investment fund,” said Jeffrey Kelley. “At this point in time it would be premature to comment further about potential structure or investment parameters.”

A permanently secured route through the Bering Strait up into the Arctic would be a major boon to shipping companies and resource extractors. Last month, Nordic Bulk Carriers, a Danish shipping company, said it would save a third of its usual costs and nearly half the time shipping goods if a route to China was available through the Arctic instead of via the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.

Ben Ayliffe, an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace, criticized the fund: “We shouldn’t be surprised that the industry which got us into the worst global economic crisis in living memory now has the planet’s last great wilderness in its sights. But, even by its own standards, it would seem exceedingly short-sighted to pour billions of dollars into the extraction of climate-changing fossil fuels just as scientists warn that the Arctic’s summer sea ice is entering what they call a ‘death spiral’.”

Greenpeace is campaigning for the Arctic to be better protected.

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USA: BOEMRE Awards USD 5.6 Million for Environmental Study of Hanna Shoal

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The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with the University of Texas at Austin and a team of highly qualified and experienced Arctic researchers for a comprehensive study of the Hanna Shoal ecosystem in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. The study will be conducted from 2011-2016 and is expected to cost $5,645,168.

Ongoing studies have highlighted Hanna Shoal as an important biological ecosystem between the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean waters. BOEMRE analysts and decision makers will use the information developed by this study in future National Environmental Policy Act analyses and decision-making regarding potential energy development in the Chukchi Sea.

Over the course of many years, we have devoted substantial resources to promote better understanding of the Arctic environment,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “This five-year study will greatly contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the biological diversity of the Hanna Shoal area and will provide additional valuable information about the ecosystem that supports marine life.”

The main objectives of the study are to identify and measure important physical and biological processes that contribute to the high concentration of marine life in the Hanna Shoal area. The study will document physical and oceanographic features, ice conditions, and information concerning local species. BOEMRE will integrate data gained from this study with other relevant Chukchi Sea studies to provide a more complete understanding of environmental considerations such as food web and contaminant bioaccumulations.

Dr. Kenneth H. Dunton, University of Texas at Austin, will serve as Principal Investigator. His team will include researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Maryland, the University of Rhode Island​, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. BOEMRE will be involved in all phases of the study, including substantial input to the field research design and coordinating with other research efforts in the Chukchi Sea to ensure BOEMRE information needs are met. BOEMRE staff may also participate in field cruises, field data interpretations and analyses, and in writing articles that flow from research that will be conducted under this cooperative agreement.

Although BOEMRE developed the Hanna Shoal study parameters in 2010, the study will also address several issues raised by the U.S. Geological Survey June 2011 report, An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska.

Since the early 1970s, BOEMRE and its predecessor organizations have funded more than $340 million in studies in Alaska. The Hannah Shoal study is one of approximately 40 ongoing studies the bureau’s Alaska Region is currently coordinating and managing. The bureau’s Environmental Studies Program conducts and oversees world-class, scientific research to inform policy decisions regarding leasing and development of OCS energy and mineral resources.

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