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Shell to postpone drilling into hydrocarbon zones offshore Alaska until 2013; top hole preparation continues
17 September 2012
With its drilling window closing and a number of factors—the most recent being a damaged containment dome on its Arctic Challenger barge—creating delays, Royal Dutch Shell has decided to postpone drilling into hydrocarbon zones offshore Alaska this year. Instead, the company says, it will begin as many wells (“top holes”) as time remaining in this season allows. (Earlier post.)
The top portion of the wells drilled in the days and weeks ahead will be capped and temporarily abandoned this year, in accordance with regulatory requirements. Shell says it is looking forward to the final receipt of the required drilling permits for the multi-year exploration program upon the successful testing and deployment of the Arctic Containment System.
The multi-year drilling program to explore for new oil & gas resources in high-potential blocks in offshore Alaska already involves two drill ships, more than twenty support vessels, an approved capping stack, and other redundant oil spill response equipment already in position.
Over the last several days, Shell successfully completed a series of tests of the first-ever Arctic Containment System. However, during a final test, the containment dome aboard the Arctic Challenger barge was damaged, and will require “some days” to repair and fully assess dome readiness, Shell said.
The time required to repair the dome, along with steps we have taken to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice floe movement (Shell moved the Noble Discoverer drill ship out of the path of approaching sea ice), led Shell to revise the plans for the 2012-2013 exploration program.
The Noble Discoverer will resume its position and drilling operations over the ‘Burger A’ prospect in the days ahead.
Also, in the coming days, Shell expects to begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea. These operations will follow the conclusion of the fall whale hunt and the anticipated receipt of a top hole drilling permit.
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