Italian oil major Eni has spud a new oil well from the Spy Island drillsite, a manmade island in the Beaufort Sea, offshore Alaska, earlier this week, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) reported today (27 December).
|Image from BSEE.|
The start of drilling follows BSEE’s 28 November approval of Eni’s Beaufort Sea plans and a pre-drill inspection that took place from 6-10 December. Eni plans to drill four exploration wells – including two mainbores and two sidetracks – over the next two years from its Nikaitchuq North project. The firm plans to use extended-reach drilling techniques to target a formation in the Harrison Bay Block 6423 unit, a 13-lease unit on the Outer Continental Shelf that BSEE approved in December 2016. Eni and Shell will jointly explore the unit using the Doyon Rig 15, BSEE reported last month.
As drilling continues, BSEE will provide oversight to ensure operations are being conducted in accordance with approval plans and permits, said BSEE Alaska Region Director Mark Fesmire in a 27 December statement.
The new Trump administration is hoping to reverse industry views on Arctic drilling, after years of heavy regulations from the Obama administration (plus cost, and harsh operating/environmental conditions, etc.) led many major oil companies, including Shell and Statoil to relinquish their US Arctic leases in the Chukchi Sea, offshore Alaska, back in 2016. Shell spent approximately US$1 billion to drill the Burger J prospect, in the Chukchi Sea, which failed to prove oil.
Map of Nikaitchuq, from Eni.
“The Arctic is an important component of the (Trump) administration’s national energy strategy, and today’s news is great for America as the US advances toward energy dominance,” said Interior's Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash. “Interior is actively working with a number of Alaska Native partners, who rely on the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas for their subsistence way of life, to ensure a healthy environment for today and future generations.”
In July this year, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave Eni the greenlight for its Beaufort Sea drilling plan.