Shell Prepares Arctic Offshore Exploration Plan

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC will submit an Arctic offshore exploration plan for waters off northern Alaska but has not made a final decision on whether to drill in 2014, the company announced Thursday.

Chief Financial Officer Henry Simon announced third quarter earnings and answered questions about 2014, according to a transcript of the press conference.

"Alaska is very much top of the priority list," he said.

The company will drill only in the Chukchi Sea of Alaska's northwest coast if the decision is made to move ahead in 2014, Simon said. The company does not have a drill vessel ready for the shallow Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast. The vessel used in 2012, the Kulluk, ran aground near Kodiak Island on its way to a shipyard after the drilling season last year and may never be used again, Simon said.

"The Kulluk we do not expect, in fact we are not sure that we will necessarily bring the Kulluk back into operation," Simon said.

The company would drill in the Chukchi with the same ship it used in 2012, the Noble Discoverer, Simon said, backing it up with a new rig, the Transocean Polar Pioneer, which could drill a relief well if a blowout occurred, as required by federal regulators.

Environmental groups oppose artic offshore drilling, saying oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up a major spill in ice-choked waters. They say Shell demonstrated in 2012 that oil companies are not prepared to deal with cold, dark conditions hundreds of miles from infrastructure that supports drilling in other regions and that not enough is known about the Arctic ecosystem to allow industrial development.


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