Shell Kicks Off Beaufort Sea Drilling

Shell has commenced drilling the Sivulliq prospect in the Beaufort Sea following the conclusion of the fall Kaktovik whale hunt.

Shell is drilling the well using the Kulluk drilling rig, the company said in a statement. The company and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission had previously agreed that Shell would not begin drilling until the whale hunt had ended.

The occasion is historic in that it's the first time two rigs have been drilling simultaneously offshore Alaska in over two decades, Shell said in a statement.

"In the weeks ahead, we look forward to operating safely and responsibly, putting Americans to work and adding to Shell's long, successful history of drilling offshore Alaska," said Pete Slaiby, vice presiden of Alaska, in a statement Wednesday.

Shell last month received permission to begin preparatory work ahead of exploration drilling in the Beaufort Sea from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

The company received permission in late August to begin preparing for exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell said it had to revise its 2012-2013 exploration plans after the containment dome aboard its Arctic Challenger spill containment barge was damaged. Time needed to repair the dome, along with Shell's efforts to protect the local whaling operations and ensuring the safety of operations from ice floes, prompted Shell to revise its drilling plans, the company said in a Sept. 17 statement.

Shell has been preparing for drilling in 2013 by drilling as many wells, or top holes, as time will allow this season, the company said last month.

"The top portion of the wells drilled in the days and weeks ahead will be safely capped and temporarily abandoned this year, in accordance with regulatory requirements," Shell said in a statement.

The Noble Discoverer (mid-water drillship) has been drilling at Shell's Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea since last month.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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