Shell starts drilling offshore Alaska

Shell has kicked off drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea, offshore Alaska, using the Transocean-owned Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

According to the company, the Polar Pioneer semi-submersible drilling rig spudded the Burger J well at approximately 17:00 Alaska Daylight Time, Thursday, July 30. The Burger Prospect is located in about 140 feet of water, 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

For now, Shell has only obtained a permit to drill the top sections of wells in the Chukchi Sea. Until it has a capping stack ready for emergency deployment Shell will be banned from drilling into oil-bearing zones.

A capping stack is a critical piece of emergency response equipment designed to shut in a well in the unlikely event of a loss of well control.

Shell’s capping stack is staged on the vessel M/V Fennica, which was recently damaged and had to undergo repairs in Portland, Oregon. When the M/V Fennica is capable of being deployed in the Chukchi Sea and Shell is able to satisfy the capping stack requirement, the company may submit an Application for Permit to Modify the APDs and request to have this restriction reconsidered, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a statement last week.

The MV Fennica AIS data shows that the vessel has left Oregon and is now en route to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Last week, Greenpeace activists tried preventing the vessel from leaving Oregon. Read more here.

Announcing the spudding, Shell said in a statement: “In the days to come, the team aboard the Transocean Polar Pioneer will work to complete the top portion of the well in anticipation of drilling to total depth once the Fennica arrives on site. We remain committed to operating safely and responsibly and adding to Shell’s long history of exploration in offshore Alaska.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff