ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Shell Oil Company’s exploration plan for summer 2012 offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea was conditionally approved by the Department of the Interior on Friday.
Among the conditions in the approval is a measure which requires Shell to cease drilling in areas where there may be oil, 38 days before the start of November, a time when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) anticipates the sea will freeze over.
The open water season in the Arctic, during which exploration is feasible, lasts just a few months, July through October.
The measure is "designed to mitigate the risk of an end-of-season oil spill," said a BOEM press release, by allowing ample time for cap and containment, as well as cleanup before the ice sets in.
"We are still evaluating the conditions outlined in the approval, including the stipulation that potentially limits the duration of Shell’s Chukchi drilling season," wrote Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith in a statement. "We are concerned this unwarranted restriction could severely impact our ability to deliver a complete Chukchi program."