Shell formally launches 2015 Arctic drilling bid

the latest news from AK. Let’s see what they can pull off in 2015 (or not), especially. after 1,5 years of repairs of the Noble Discoverer.

[B]Shell formally launches 2015 Arctic drilling bid[/B]

Fuelfix - August 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

WASHINGTON — Shell’s campaign to resume Arctic drilling in 2015 took a major step forward Thursday, as the company gave federal regulators a broad drilling blueprint that lays out plans for boring new exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi Sea.

The exploration plan filed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Anchorage keeps the door open for Shell Oil Co. to resume its Arctic drilling campaign as soon as summer 2015. It is the strongest evidence yet that Shell’s new CEO, Ben van Beurden, is willing to keep pursuing a big discovery in the U.S. Arctic, after a mishap-plagued 2012 exploration campaign ended with the grounding of the company’s Kulluk drilling rig and a $200 million loss for scrapping it.

Spokesmen with the ocean energy bureau and Shell confirmed the filing Thursday.

But Shell still must clear major legal and regulatory hurdles before it can return to icy Arctic waters — and few of those obstacles are in the oil company’s control.

Chief among them: The ocean energy bureau’s ongoing work to redo an environmental analysis underpinning its 2008 auction of Chukchi Sea oil leases, after a federal court ruled in January that the government’s estimate about potential oil recovery from the waters was flawed. The agency’s rewrite of that environmental impact statement is on track to be issued next spring — about the same time Shell likely would be looking to move its drilling rigs and support vessels to the region in preparation.

While Shell pursues essential federal permits and regulatory approvals, the company has quietly been lining up new vessels to join its Arctic fleet, moving equipment to the region and forging new relationships with Alaska natives meant to bolster support for its offshore drilling.

Equipment and supplies were recently delivered to Shell’s worker camp, which is being resurrected in Barrow, Alaska. And the company is adding new anchor handlers and tugs to the roster of ships it will have in the Chukchi Sea next year, if drilling is approved.

Shell also has been working to convince regulators that it has made broad changes to better supervise its contractors, from drilling companies to boat operators. For months, the ocean energy bureau has been trading letters with Shell documenting dwindling concerns with the company’s Arctic plans.

Shedding acreage: Oil companies forfeit Arctic drilling rights

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company’s new Arctic exploration plan reflects lessons learned from the 2012 operation.

“This program places more emphasis on integrated planning and additional marine protocols,” Smith said. “We’ve taken a critical look at all of the experiences we’ve had in Alaska over the last several years and this latest exploration plan takes those learnings into account.”

Shell’s newly submitted exploration plan — a revision of a previously approved blueprint first filed in 2011 — outlines ambitions to drill up to six wells over several years, with activities concentrated in the potentially more lucrative Chukchi Sea and not the neighboring Beaufort. The ocean energy bureau is tasked with vetting the broad exploration plan, but even with that agency’s approval, Shell would have to win drilling permits from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement before beginning work on individual wells.

The company is formally withdrawing a proposed exploration plan it filed last year.

Shell is aiming to deploy two drilling rigs — the Noble Discoverer it used in 2012 and Transocean’s semi-submersible drilling unit Polar Pioneer. While both might be drilling simultaneously either could be tapped in an emergency to bore a relief well. Both rigs are now in Singapore for upgrades.

It also is promising to add an additional helicopter to its operations in the region, which will allow it to transport additional crew and support government required sampling programs.

Exploratory drilling in U.S. Arctic waters is limited to just a few months when the area is relatively free of ice, giving oil companies a narrow window to work in the region.

During the 2012 season, Shell bored the first portion of its Burger A well in the Chukchi Sea, stopping about 1,300 feet down, before it penetrated any potential oil and gas reservoirs. The Interior Department barred Shell from penetrating potential hydrocarbon zones because its emergency oil containment system was not certified and nearby in time for the summer drilling season.

The company also completed a 20-foot-by-40-foot mud line cellar designed to hold critical emergency equipment just below the sea floor.

Although the previously drilled Burger A well is among Shell’s six potential targets, outlined in the newly filed exploration plan, the company might not turn to it right away.

Separately, federal regulators have drafted a host of minimum standards that would govern oil and gas activity in U.S. Arctic waters; the Office of Management and Budget is now reviewing the measure, which could be formally proposed later this year.

It is not clear whether the government will impose those Arctic standards in time to govern any Chukchi Sea drilling next summer. But administration officials have signaled that the mandates closely track voluntary steps Shell employed in 2012, such as its decision to create an oil spill containment system that could trap flowing oil and gas from a blown-out well.

Environmentalists warn that drilling in Arctic waters is too risky and insist that any spill at the top of the globe would be impossible to clean up. While Shell plans to stash booms, skimmers and other spill response gear nearby, conservationists note that most of that equipment is geared toward warmer, calmer waters.

John Deans, the Arctic Campaign specialist for Greenpeace, called Shell’s preparations “a red flag for the millions of people around the world who want to save the Arctic from catastrophe.”

“Shell clearly hasn’t learned anything from its last Alaskan misadventure, which would have been funny had it not put lives, local communities, and a delicate ecosystem in grave peril,” Deans said. “Shell is putting the pieces in place for next summer so it will at least appear competent to the administration, but anyone who has been paying attention knows that Shell is simply hoping the public and the U.S. government will confuse their commitment for competency.”

and more details emerge …

[B]Feds reveal details on Shell’s Arctic ambitions[/B]

Fuelfix - Jennifer A. Dlouhy - September 16, 2014

WASHINGTON — More details came to light Tuesday on Shell’s plans for exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska, as federal regulators released a copy of the company’s broad Arctic drilling blueprint.

Shell filed the document with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last month, a milestone in its quest to resume drilling in the region after its previous, attempt two years ago was marred by mishaps.

Shell is aiming to drill up to six wells on separate lease blocks encompassing its Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea, with work unfolding over several years. It plans to put two rigs to work at the same time drilling separate wells, allowing it to maximize the short window between the time sea ice retreats and begins encroaching again. The tactic also means that a second rig will be relatively close by — rather than a seven-day trek away in Dutch Harbor, Alaska — in case an emergency means it is needed to drill a relief well.

The two rigs tapped for the job are the Noble Discoverer, a turret-moored self-propelled drillship that Shell employed in the Chukchi Sea in 2012, and Transocean’s Polar Pioneer, a semi-submersible offshore drilling unit that does not have its own propulsion.

“Each drilling rig will serve as the other’s relief-well rig,” according to a bureau summary posted with the plan. “The drilling units will move through the Bering Straits and into the Chukchi Sea on or after July 1 and then onto the Burger prospect as soon as ice and weather conditions allow.”

Shell executives have not made an official decision to plunge forward into those icy waters, but filing the exploratory plan is a necessary step in its quest for federal permits necessary to conduct the work next year.


Any final verdict from the company and regulators is many months away, as the ocean energy bureau redoes the environmental analysis that underpinned its 2008 auction of the Chukchi Sea oil leases held by Shell and other firms. A federal court ruled in January that the government’s estimate about potential oil recovery from the waters was flawed, prompting the rewrite.

In posting a version of the exploration plan online Tuesday, the ocean energy bureau confirmed it expects to have a draft of that environmental analysis finished in early October, with a final version released in February and a record of decision codifying the Interior Department’s approach to the sale in March.

The ocean energy bureau said it would launch a formal review of Shell’s exploration plan — and a public comment period on the proposal — after it completes the court-ordered environmental analysis and the Interior Department’s record of decision is issued.

The government’s timeline coincides with Shell’s planning process. Although Shell has already moved some equipment to Barrow, Alaska in preparation, most major deployments — and spending — are tied to mobilizing a fleet of vessels, expected next year.

“It appears agencies and industry are rapidly putting everything in place for Shell to drill this coming summer before we have Arctic standards in place and transparency about how Shell plans to avoid repeating the problems of the 2012 season,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of Pew’s Arctic Program.

Shell has been working to convince regulators that it has made broad changes to better supervise its contractors, from drilling companies to boat operators. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith previously said the new Arctic exploration plan reflects lessons learned from the 2012 operation, with “more emphasis on integrated planning.”

Changes planned

One of those changes is a decision to add an additional helicopter to Shell’s lineup of equipment along Alaska’s north coast. The extra helicopter — along with plans to boost the frequency of crew change flights — is likely to translate into roughly 40 round trips weekly.

In the newest exploration plan, Shell also says it is adding more support vehicles and oil spill response equipment, including three anchor handlers instead of just one. “These adjustments have been made in direct response to Shell’s experiences during the 2012 season, the planned use of a second drilling unit and (new discharge monitoring requirements),” Shell said.

Offshore supply vessels are expected to make nearly twice as many round trips to Shell’s contracted drilling units, according to the plan, though it was not immediately clear why the oil company expects that traffic to climb.

Shell is also outlining ambitions to potentially use remote-operated vehicles to do some work on mudline cellars, holes in the seabed at the site of new wells. The 20-by-40-foot mudline cellars, generally excavated over seven to 10 days before deeper drilling commences, are designed to hold emergency devices known as blowout preventers just below the sea floor, protecting the equipment from moving icebergs.

The remote-operated vehicles might be used to help maintain mudline cellars, keeping them clear of debris.

Narrow drilling window

A typical drilling season, limited by both regulations and ice conditions, could start as early as July 1 and close by Oct. 31. But Shell says even an “average” Arctic drilling window “is long enough for a drilling unit to drill an exploration well from spud to proposed total depth and possibly construct an additional mudline cellar or drill and secure a partial well.”

“The actual number of wells that will be drilled in a season will depend upon ice conditions and the length of time available in each exploration drilling season,” Shell says.

The company is not tinkering with its approach to managing ice in the remote region, nor its plans for dealing with an oil spill, which regulators previously approved.

Michael LeVine, Pacific senior counsel for the conservation group Oceana, said Shell “is getting ahead of itself.”

“The company should demonstrate it can mobilize its equipment safely, respond effectively to an accident, and comply with the law before it contemplates anything more complicated,” he said. “Shell appears to have learned little from its past experiences and should be considering whether it wants to continue to invest huge sums continuing to try to drill in a place for which it is clearly unprepared.”

Do I hear Calliopy music playing somewhere?


now all we need is a rending version of “A Life on the Ocean Wave” to perfectly set the mood…

sorry in advance to mainecheng…but this is what Shell is up against now. If they don’t succeed on try #3 (#1 & #2 being 2009 & 2012) then they’d better just give the fuck up…


Or Yakity Sax

[QUOTE=Capt ETC;144441]Or Yakity Sax[/QUOTE]

a fine choice but if you’re gonna use that one, at least use the master’s version…


do you see how Boot’s strains to make that one rock? makes me think I’d blow a major blood vessel in my brain to even try! And that an old honky could even blow sax like that is what is truly amazing! Gives this old honky hope yet…


She had two ping tanks installed for this bit. I’ll give you three guesses on where she put’em.

[QUOTE=Capt ETC;144448]She had two ping tanks installed for this bit. I’ll give you three guesses on where she put’em.[/QUOTE]

easy to guess but what the eff is a ping tank?

They’re reserve air receivers. The most popular setups are for air suspensions on trucks to give the system more volume.

Glad to see you guys hijacking yet another thread…

Did someone say hijack :)???

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;144455]Did someone say hijack :)???[/QUOTE]

lojack is more appropriate I’d say…

Anybody have any idea if Chouest is still going to be the supply boat company up there for this? Any Harvey boats?

I have not heard anything but hopefully some HOS boats will go. I would love to get out of Fourchon for a while.

I wonder who’s doing the ice management. Aiviq is still the only ice-capable vessel flying the American flag.

Aiviq is still here and I would guess Harvey is still going to be involved as well.

What is the Aiviq doing?

What do you think?

They ain’t doin Jack Shit, propping up a dock in Everett where they’ve sat since early 2013. In the meantime ECO collects and the crew is making BANK!

to think Shell ended up with a vessel with such limited use (and many of us questions her usefulness even there) and are paying so much for it. For $200+k/day you’d think Shell would have chosen to go with a design that could have been used somewhere other that the Arctic…but instead they and their most knowing of brains got a huge blue whale instead…FOOLS!


God with all those sat domes they might as well be an internet porn server.

Maybe shell has subbed it out to the NSA…Since they are into throwing $ around why not get rid of the Noble Disco and hire a Stena Icemax or some other harsh wx drillship? I know the have the polar class semi but why not another similar rig. As long as it’s been since the last project they probably could have ha one purpose built somewhere. I bet Gary would have built one in Tampa if the price was right.

[QUOTE=c.captain;144501]For $200M (or $200k/day) you’d think Shell would have chosen to go with a design that could have been used somewhere other that the Arctic…[/QUOTE]

Well, they wanted an icebreaker…