The repaired Finnish icebreaker Fennica has arrived at Shell’s Arctic Ocean drill site and the company has requested permission to begin drilling deeper into the oil-bearing rock below the Chukchi Sea.
The Alaska Dispatch reported Wednesday that Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) officials had confirmed receipt of Shell’s request to modify its Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs), but that there was “no timeline” for a decision. BSEE has inspectors on both Shell’s semisubmersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer and the the drillship Noble Discoverer to monitor compliance with federal regulations and safety standards.
In July, Shell was granted permission to begin drilling in the top sections of two wells in the Burger J and Burger V prospects in the Chukchi though drilling at both wells may not occur simultaneously in an effort to minimize environmental impacts.
However, Shell has been restricted from drilling into oil-bearing zones until the Fennica, carrying important safety equipment, was onsite and deployable. The Fennica carries Shell’s capping stack, a piece of response equipment designed to shut-in a well in the event of a loss of control. The vessel required repairs in Portland, Ore., after damaging its hull en route to the drill site in early July and did not arrive back in the Arctic until Tuesday evening, the Dispatch reported.
Shell has a limited window for drilling as work must be completed 30 days ahead of the anticipated start of the ice season. According to the Houston Chronicle’s fuel fix, regulators have mandated that drilling cease by Sept. 28, though the company is permitted to do other work in the area until Oct. 31.