Shell plans to restart oil drilling in the Arctic | Polarjournal
The now decommissioned oil platform “Polar Pioneer” in the Chukchi Sea. Drilling in the area was abandoned in 2015 because not enough recoverable oil was found. Photo: Mark Fink, Shell

The Dutch mineral oil giant Shell plans to drill for oil in the Arctic again. After a break of several years, which followed several incidents, the company wants to become active this time off Alaska’s North Slope region – an ecologically highly sensitive area that is not spared from storms.

According to Achorage Daily News, Shell Offshore Inc. has applied to establish the West Harrison Bay Unit in the waters off the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, with plans to drill for oil in the area in the coming years.

The newly planned drilling will be conducted off the coast of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA). Map: USGS

If Shell can secure a partner to share the costs and risks of the remote offshore exploration of the North Slope, the Company expects to drill exploration wells in the West Harrison Bay Unit in 2023 and 2024.

According to the application, Shell had been trying to find a partner for at least a year before the coronavirus pandemic struck in late winter. As a result, Shell is asking the State of Alaska to approve its five-year exploration plan, which would allow the company to find a partner and better analyze the development potential of the area.

Shell holds a 100 percent working interest in 18 leases covering more than 300 square kilometers in the proposed unit.

During the transport from the area of operation to Seattle, Washington, the oil rig Kulluk broke away from the tug and stranded on Sitkalidak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg, United States Coast Guard

Shell had decided to withdraw from the Arctic in 2015 due to, among other things, an incident involving the Kulluk platform. The platform had detached from the tug during a transport in December 2012 and stranded on an island in the Gulf of Alaska. Fortunately, no environmental disaster occurred at that time.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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