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Shell's Chukchi sea spill plan gets green light

15th March 2012

Shell’s contingency plan in the event of an accident has been approved by US energy regulator

Arctic mountains
Shell to start Arctic drilling in the summer

Shell’s oil spill response plan (OSRP) for the Chukchi Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, has been approved by US offshore energy regulator, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). 

The approval is a “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 has dedicated to assembling an Arctic oil spill response fleet second to none in the world”, said Shell in a statement in February. 

Specifically, Shell’s OSRP includes the assembly of a round-the-clock on-site, nearshore and onshore Arctic-class oil spill response fleet, collaboration with the US Coast Guard on both assets and response planning, and newly engineered Arctic capping and containment systems that will be tested before drilling commences.

“We recognise that industry’s license to operate in the offshore is predicated on being able to operate in a safe, environmentally sound manner…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, Shell Alaska’s vice president.

Shell has a long history of drilling in the Alaska offshore. Shell claims it will provide “tens of thousands of jobs, new domestic energy and new oil for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline”. “As we move forward, Shell will continue to work with regulators and the Department of Interior to achieve the final permits needed to begin drilling in July”, it adds.

An oil spill response plan for the Beaufort Sea has been filed and is still being reviewed, according to Shell. A review is expected to be completed in the near future.

*On 14 March, a UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee questioned Cairn Energy and Shell on their intentions to drill in the Arctic. Shell applied to start drilling in the Arctic this summer off Alaska while Cairn has already drilled off Greenland for the last two summers.

Green MP and committee member, Caroline Lucas expressed concerned over senior oil company representatives’ apparent complacency to possibilities of a future accident and appropriate contingency plans.  Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said it was “hugely irresponsible" the energy giants had so far failed to provide investors with estimates on how big the clean-up costs for an accident might be.

The committee will continue its investigations over March and is due to publish recommendations on how the UK government should respond to the opening up of the area for economic exploitation.


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