Resource Development Council

RDC Action Alert:
Support Shell’s Revised Exploration Plan
for Exploration Drilling in Chukchi Sea

Read RDC's Comment Letter

Comment deadline was May 1, 2015

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is inviting public review and comment of Shell’s revised multi-year Exploration Plan (EP) for the Chukchi Sea. The revised EP describes Shell’s proposal to conduct exploration drilling in the shallow waters of the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). It is available for review at:

An EP describes all exploration activities planned by the operator for a specific lease or leases, including the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and actions to be taken to meet important safety and environmental standards and to protect access to subsistence resources.

BOEM will scrutinize this revised EP to determine whether it meets stringent environmental and regulatory standards. The bureau is now analyzing and evaluating the revised EP in accordance with federal law.

Shell’s revised EP proposes to continue the multi-year Chukchi Sea exploration drilling program the company began in July 2012. This program includes drilling up to six wells within the Burger Prospect, located in approximately 140 feet of water about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright. Shell would conduct its operations using the drillship M/V Noble Discoverer and the semi-submersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer, with each vessel providing relief-well capability for the other. The two drilling units and their supporting vessels would depart the Chukchi Sea at the conclusion of each exploration drilling season.

Upon completion of the technical and environmental analysis, BOEM will decide whether to approve the revised EP, require modifications, or disapprove it. Prior to conducting any operations, in addition to BOEM’s review of the EP, Shell will need to receive approval from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and other relevant Federal agencies.

Action requested:
A 21-day public comment period ending May 1 is now underway on the revised EP. RDC urges its members to participate in the process and submit comments in support of Shell’s EP. BOEM is only accepting and considering public comments submitted through the federal eRulemaking Portal:!documentDetail;D=BOEM-2015-0039-0001

Points to consider for your comments:

  • Shell’s revised Exploration Plan is complete and fully addresses all of the major activities associated with offshore exploration in the Chukchi Sea. The EP should be approved in an expeditious manner so drilling can occur this summer.
  • In its recent report, the National Petroleum Council said the U.S. should immediately begin oil and gas exploration and development in the U.S. Arctic or risk a renewed heavy reliance on imported oil in the future. In order for the U.S. to keep domestic production high and imports low, oil companies should start probing the Arctic soon. If exploration proceeds in the Arctic now, production could come on line around the same time that Lower 48 production is projected to decline sharply.
  • With a sustained level of leasing and exploration drilling activity over the next 15 years, offshore Alaska could yield significant new domestic production by the mid-2030s and sustain this level of production through mid-century and beyond.
  • The federal government estimates there are 23.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas planning areas. America’s offshore Arctic oil and gas deposits could be among the largest in the world.
  • Offshore development in the Alaska Arctic has the potential to be a significant contributor to our nation’s energy security, as well as a significant source of long-term jobs for Americans. It is estimated that economic activity from the development of Arctic energy resources would create an annual average of 54,700 jobs nationwide with a cumulative payroll of $154 billion over the next 50 years.
  • 440 exploration wells have been drilled in Arctic waters, including 35 in the Alaskan OCS.
  • In 1964, Shell was the first operator to install a platform and produce hydrocarbons in Cook Inlet, and since 1987, Shell has successfully drilled 11 wells in the Alaska Arctic OCS, not including the two top holes drilled in the Chukchi Sea in 2012.
  • Planned drilling in the Chukchi Sea is in shallow water, similar to Cook Inlet and near-shore Gulf of Mexico, where safe drilling practices have led to a long history of safe operations.
  • Arctic OCS oil and gas production could generate approximately $200 billion in federal, state, and local government revenue. Offshore development would also help extend the longevity of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which is critical and strategic infrastructure to the nation’s energy security.
  • Over its 30-plus year span, TAPS has transported more than 17 billion barrels of oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez to tankers for West Coast distribution. At one point, TAPS carried more than 2 million barrels per day, accounting for 25 percent of domestic production, but today TAPS transports just over 500,000 barrels per day.
  • Declining TAPS throughput compromises the integrity of the pipeline and means less tax revenue for government. Production from OCS leases could turn around TAPS decline and maintain its viability for decades.

Comment deadline was May 1, 2015

Return to Action Alerts