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BOEM: Conditional Approval for Shell’s Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan (USA)


The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on Friday, October 16, issued conditional approval of Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.’s revised Exploration Plan under leases in the Chukchi Sea Planning Area. In its Exploration Plan, Shell proposes drilling up to six exploration wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea beginning in the 2012 drilling season.

This decision follows the bureau’s completion of a site-specific Environmental Assessment that examined the potential environmental effects of the plan. The conditions of approval require Shell to comply with a range of important safety and environmental protection measures.

BOEM’s conditional approval does not authorize Shell to commence exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Shell must satisfy the conditions of BOEM’s approval, as well as obtain approvals from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) regarding its Oil Spill Response Plan and well-specific applications for permit to drill.

“Our scientists and subject matter experts have carefully scrutinized Shell’s proposed activities,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We will continue to work closely with agencies across the federal government to ensure that Shell complies with the conditions we have imposed on its Exploration Plan and all other applicable safety, environmental protection and emergency response standards.”

Shell acquired its leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008 under Lease Sale 193, which BOEM recently reaffirmed after completing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. All of these leases are subject to a series of stipulated requirements to mitigate operational and environmental risks, and the conditions for approval of Shell’s Exploration Plan build on and expand those requirements.

Among the conditions of approval is a measure designed to mitigate the risk of an end-of-season oil spill by requiring Shell to leave sufficient time to implement cap and containment operations as well as significant clean-up before the onset of sea ice, in the event of a loss of well control. Given current technology and weather forecasting capabilities, Shell must cease drilling into zones capable of flowing liquid hydrocarbons 38 days before the first-date of ice encroachment over the drill site. Based on a 5-year analysis of historic weather patterns, BOEM anticipates November 1 as the earliest anticipated date of ice encroachment. The 38-day period would also provide a window for the drilling of a relief well, should one be required.

Shell must also obtain necessary permits from other agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.


Duncan: Obama’s energy policy blocking job creation

by Jason Evans

NATION — As the nation’s gas prices rise, Rep. Jeff Duncan believes that President Obama needs to re-examine his administration’s energy policy.

The president recently praised Brazils’ energy policy, commending their exploration of off-shore drilling.

But at the same time, Duncan says, the Obama administration is tying the hands of energy producers here at home, by refusing to issue permits that would allow for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

“We’ve got the president going to a foreign country and applauding them for what we should be doing,” Duncan said.

The administration has lifted the moratorium placed on drilling that was put into place after the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which left 11 people dead and blanketed the Gulf of Mexico in oil for months.

But though the moratorium has been lifted, Duncan says new permits are being issued at a glacial pace.

Duncan serves on the Natural Resources Committee, which has been meeting recently with groups such as the Deepwater Horizon Commission, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The theme on the committee has been ‘How do we get the folks back to work in the Gulf of Mexico back and address rising gas prices in the nation?’” Duncan said.

Duncan believes the administration’s policy on offshore drilling and drilling on federal land is standing in the way of economic development.

“He seems to have a policy of ‘Drill there, not here,’” Duncan said. “We’ve got the resources to meet America’s independent energy needs, through offshore drilling and drilling on federal lands that have been taken off the table.

“We’ve got a president applauding a foreign country for what we’re not doing, thanks to his policy,” he said. “We need to be tapping American resources.”

Issuing permits to those wishing to drill — who have met all requirements — will lead spur economic recovery, Duncan said.

“I truly believe that energy is a segue to job creation,” he said.

More drilling would benefit not only the energy companies themselves, but a variety of services industries tied to energy-producing areas and beyond, Duncan said.

“We know we have the resources,” he said. “It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”

Approving and investing in more drilling would also have an impact at the gas pump, Duncan said.

“It would signal to the market that we are serious about American resources,” he said. “We’d see a lessening of the price at the pump.”

That would be a boon to industry and small businesses alike, Duncan said.

“Their costs of business would go down, based on their fuel prices going down,” he said.

Duncan said he is a “huge fan” of nuclear energy, and disagrees with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who has said America “needs to put the brakes on” building new nuclear plants, in light of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima No. 1 reactor.

“I say no,” Duncan said. “We need to proceed cautiously, but we’ve been proceeding cautiously for the past 30 years.”

He said residents of Pickens and Oconee counties know first-hand the value of nuclear energy, thanks to Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station plant.

“You know it’s safe,” he said. “The energy source is stable, it’s consistent. You don’t have the fluctuations in the power grid.”

New nuclear technology will ensure that reactors stay cool in the event of a catastrophe.

New plants can be built with gravity-fed reactors, in which the cooling water is kept above the reactor, Duncan said.

If a power failure occurs, the water falls on the reactors, cooling them and preventing a meltdown.

Plants such as Fukushima No. 1 rely on force-fed cooling, which is why the pumps failed when the power failed, he said.

“The new reactors aren’t going to have that issue,” Duncan said.

Duncan said he believes in an “all-encompassing” energy policy for the United States, including wind and solar power.

“I believe in using it all but I also believe that we have needs that have to be met,” Duncan said. “Wind and solar would provide only a slim fraction of our energy needs. We cannot ignore the natural resources that God gave us, the resources we need to be tapping.”

( Original Article )

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