USA: Shell’s Chukchi Sea Oil Spill Response Plan Approved
On February 17, 2012, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved Shell’s Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) for the Chukchi Sea.
Approval of the Plan is another major milestone on the path to drilling in the Alaska offshore this summer and further validates the huge amount of time, technology, and resources Shell says it “has dedicated to assembling an Arctic oil spill response fleet second to none in the world.”
Specifically, Shell’s OSRP includes the assembly of a 24/7 on-site, nearshore and onshore Arctic-class oil spill response fleet, collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard on both assets and response planning, and newly engineered Arctic capping and containment systems that will be tested before drilling commences.
“We recognize that industry’s license to operate in the offshore is predicated on being able to operate in a safe, environmentally sound manner. Shell’s commitment to those basic principals is unwavering. Our Alaska Exploration Plans and Oil Spill Response Plans will continually be guided by our extensive Arctic expertise, solid scientific understanding of the environment and world-class capabilities,” said Pete Slaiby, VP Alaska.
Consistent with new regulatory requirements implemented in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Shell was required to prepare for a worst case discharge nearly five times that of their previous plan, to include planning for adverse weather conditions, and to develop special equipment and strategies that could respond to a loss of well control and a spill.
Shell has committed to provide for the following emergency contingencies: (1) the availability of a capping stack to shut off any flow of oil if other shut-off systems fail; (2) the capability to capture and collect oil from that stack; and (3) access to a rig capable of drilling a relief well that could kill the well, if necessary. The ready availability of a capping stack and an oil collection system are new commitments that apply lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy to offshore oil and gas production activities.
Shell has proposed drilling up to six wells in the Chukchi Sea during the next two summer open water seasons within the Burger Prospect, located about 70 miles off the coast in approximately 140 feet of water.
“After an exhaustive review, we have confidence that Shell’s plan includes the necessary equipment and personnel pre-staging, training, logistics and communications to act quickly and mount an effective response should a spill occur,” said BSEE Director James A. Watson. “Our staff will maintain vigilant oversight over Shell to ensure that they adhere to this plan, and that all future drilling operations are conducted safely with a focus toward spill prevention.”
The approval issued Friday does not authorize Shell to begin drilling; Shell must still seek and obtain approval from BSEE for well-specific drilling permits prior to commencing operations, and BSEE would inspect and approve equipment that has been designed and deployed for the effort, including Shell’s capping stack, before activities could go forward.
Shell has also filed a OSRP for operations in the Beaufort sea. “The Beaufort Oil Spill Response Plan has been filed and is still being reviewed. It’s our understanding that review will be complete in the near future.” said Shell in a statement.
Offshore Energy Today Staff, February 20, 2012