On Monday, Royal Dutch Shell came out and commented that an icebreaking vessel, integral to the planned Arctic oil drilling project is going to be appointed to Portland, Oregon in order to receive the necessary repairs for a gash in its hull. The problem, however, is to not delay the initiation of drilling off Alaska that has been scheduled to begin later on this month.
Last week, the Fennica icebreaker’s crew discovered a 39-inch (1 meter) gash in the vessel’s hull, which was probably caused by an uncharted shoal. The required time for the voyage between southern Alaska and Portland should not cause any delays to Shell’s plan to start drilling off northern Alaska in Chukchi Sea later on this month, as commented by company spokesperson, Curtis Smith.
The company firmly believes that the drilling procedures can be proceeded with while the icebreaker is undergoing its repairs as long as it doesn’t extend into the undersea zone bearing gas and oil. According to company plans, the appointed teams for the project are to first construct well foundations and carry out some other preparatory operations before beginning drilling.
“We don’t think this will have an effect on our season due to the fact that we expect to only require the icebreaker’s services later on in August,” Smith commented.
This summer, Shell is to bring along almost 30 vessels to the Chukchi off northern Alaska, with the Fennica being one of two icebreaking vessels deployed to the location. It comes along with the capping stack, which is designed to handle a blown-out undersea well, and is required for drilling operations.
This instance marks the second recent setback that Shell has had to deal with regarding its Arctic ambitions. Back on June 30th, the Interior Department sent notice to Shell that walrus protection guidelines prevent the company from drilling two wells at the same time if they are located less than 15 miles (24 kilometers) from one another, which will translate into an unpleasant adjustment for the company when conducting its drilling operations.
The Fennica has been sent to Portland for repairs and not to ports in and near Seattle, where two of the company’s oil rigs have been put in storage before going off to Alaska, due to the fact that the facilities in question are designed only for light maintenance procedures, Smith commented.
This will mark the first time Shell’s initiated drilling in the Arctic since back in 2012 when following the summer drilling season, a large drilling rig that the company was leasing managed to brake free and grounded. In case Shell finds oil, it might potentially start producing in 10-15 years. Following this current season, the company is going to have spent roughly USD 7 billion regarding Arctic drilling off Alaska before managing to produce oil.
Shell needs to acquire two minor permits from the Department of Interior before being able to initiate drilling.