LONDON - Royal Dutch Shell PLC expects to drill eight wells in the second half of its two-year Arctic exploration program, three more than it had originally planned, as stubborn ice sheets and permit delays have reduced the amount of time available to complete the first five wells this year.
Shell, which still plans to drill ten wells in two years, is busy working with the U.S. coastguard to complete a special oil spill containment vessel that is being retrofitted to operate in more challenging conditions, a company spokesman said Wednesday.
The delays mean Shell, which counted on drilling up to five wells according to a plan approved by U.S. regulators, now expects to complete two exploration wells during Alaska's short summer-drilling season. It also plans to partially drill some wells that would be completed next year.
The Shell spokesman said ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas is thicker than it has it has been in more than a decade. The company has previously indicated that it expects to begin drilling sometime in early August.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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