Shell, blocked since 2007 from developing its Alaska leases, is seeking U.S. approval to drill as many as four wells in the Beaufort Sea -- two in 2012 and two in 2013. The volume the wells would discharge in a worst case varies, depending on the well, the Hague-based company said in a plan obtained today.
Shell pledged to deploy skimming vessels to limit a spill in the remote region that is home to polar bears and beluga whales, and use a capping dome to shut a ruptured well. The company’s Alaska campaign is portrayed by industry and environmentalists as a first test for regulators outside the Gulf of Mexico, where exploration resumed under new restrictions after BP Plc (BP/)’s spill last year, the biggest off the U.S. coast.
“Shell has designed their response program based upon a regional capability of responding to an increasing range of spill volumes,” the company said in the plan.
Shell provided two estimates for the worst-case discharge in the report, citing either 9,468 barrels or 9,648 barrels. Kelly op de Weegh, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that 9,468 barrels is correct.
BP’s failed Macondo well in the Gulf spilled as much as 62,000 barrels a day after a April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, the U.S. said on Aug. 2.
Responding to a spill is the chief concern in the Arctic “because of the challenging conditions” such as ice and high seas and where “you don’t have an immediate Coast Guard presence,” Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in an April 15 interview at Bloomberg’s office in Washington.
-- Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert
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