Arctic drilling facts

A useful article in Stuff:

Oil drill ship Noble Discoverer is heading from New Plymouth for the Arctic, north of Alaska, to explore for what could be a super-field for oil giant Shell.

The Chukchi Sea off Alaska could hold the equivalent of 4 billion to 77 billion barrels of oil, but it is likely to be gas and light oil condensate. …

Shell plans to drill up to six wells in the Chukchi Sea during the next two northern summers. Noble Discoverer will drill within the Burger Prospect, which is about 90kms off the North Alaskan coast in shallow water of just 42 metres. …

Earlier this month the US Government approved Shell’s oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea, which was seen as a milestone on the way to offshore drilling this northern summer. The plan includes a new Arctic capping and containment system to be trialled before drilling starts.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell was required to prepare for a “worst case” oil spill nearly five times that of their previous plan. It also needs access to a rig capable of drilling a relief well that could kill the well if needed.

In a major government caveat, Shell must also stop drilling in any hydrocarbon bearing zone 38 days before November 1, so if there was an accident, all capping, response and well-killing work could be finished in open sea before ice forms in Chukchi waters. That government move reduced the drilling window by about a third.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said this month that Alaskan energy resources held great promise and economic opportunity, but exploration had to be cautious and “under the strongest oversight, safety requirements and emergency response plans ever established”.

So the drilling has been signed off by the Obama administration, with extensive safety and response requirements.

The reality is Greenpeace is against any drilling for oil pretty much anywhere. They want it left on the ground, and for us to abandon travel which involves oil. Now that is a legitimate view, but I’d be more impressed when Lucy Lawless starts taking diesel ships to travel overseas for her Hollywood career, rather than jet planes.

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