Shell disconnected the Noble Discoverer drillship from its anchors in the Chukchi Sea after weather temporarily put a halt to its Arctic operations over the weekend.
The Noble Discoverer. From Shell Flickr.
“We made the decision to disconnect the Noble Discoverer from its anchors and weather the storm in the Chukchi Sea using engine power. As safety is paramount to Shell, we will resume operations as soon as it is safe to do so,” Shell spokesperson Natalie Mazey told OE.
Shell is at the beginning of its US$1 billion Arctic drilling program, which it began this month with a multi-year exploration plan to drill up to six wells in the Burger Prospect using the Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer.
The Burger prospect is 70mi northwest of the village of Wainwright, Alaska, at about 140ft water depth.
Strong winds and high waves were present off the northern coast of Alaska, as the eastern Chukchi Sea endured gale-force winds of 39-54 p.m., Ed Townsend, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks told the Associated Press.
According to Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith, Shell plans for weather disturbances, and has postponed previous drilling operations.
"It's why we use a combination of satellite images, sonar and on-site reconnaissance to inform our operations," he said. "With safety the first priority, we take a conservative approach to these weather events and make plans to curtail operations well in advance," Smith told the AP.
Earlier this month, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) granted Shell final approval to drill deeper into hydrocarbon-bearing zones at its Burger J prospect in the Chukchi Sea.
Shell had received conditional approval at the end of July to only drill into the top sections of the Burger J and Burger V wells, as the capping stack was not on location. At the time, the capping stack was still onboard the Fennica icebreaker vessels in Portland, Oregon, which was waiting on repairs from damages it sustained en route to Alaska in early July.
With BSEE’s previous conditional approval, Shell was prohibited from conducting simultaneous drilling activity at Burger J and Burger V. Back in July, BSEE said Shell must plug and abandon the top section of the first well before proceeding with any drilling activity at the second well site.