Dec 4 Royal Dutch Shell Plc will return
to Alaskan offshore drilling next July and will deploy an
upgraded drillship in the Chukchi Sea, while keeping a newly
contracted backup drillship ready if needed, according to plans
released on Wednesday.
The Noble Discoverer, now undergoing maintenance and
upgrades in South Korea, will perform exploration drilling with
a containment dome kept on standby in case of spills.
Transocean's Polar Pioneer will provide backup.
Drilling at Shell's Burger prospect is set to be carried out
from July through October, according to Shell's Integrated
The return marks a big step for Shell after a troubled 2012
season that galvanized environmental opposition to drilling off
Alaska's coast and forced the company to abandon exploration
plans for 2013. The Transocean rig replaces Shell's Kulluk, a
drillship that ran aground in January while being towed south
after completing its work off Alaska.
The Polar Pioneer - costing Shell in the range of $600,000
per day to lease - will be kept on hand to drill a relief well
"only in the unlikely event of an incident," according to the
Shell plan, which was posted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy
"The planned 2014 operations may encounter many challenges,"
the plan, which is dated Nov. 26, says. "Vast distances, harsh
weather and sea conditions, possible volcanic and earthquake
activity, and sparse shore-based infrastructure represent some
of the considerable obstacles that must be planned for and
Shell also said all its drilling operations will be
supported by rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, along with ice
management vessels and a weather advisory center.