ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Heavy sea ice will significantly delay Shell Oil’s planned offshore drilling operations this summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
Shell is saying that sea ice coverage in the Bering Sea is 30 to 40 percent above normal, the worst it’s been in 12 years. Ice coverage is also above normal in both the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
That means that the first Arctic Ocean drilling off America's shores in a generation will be delayed by two to three weeks -- a major setback since the summer drilling season in Arctic waters is so short.
Shell had hoped to be drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi by early July, but the sea ice coverage means the best it can hope for is to drill in mid-to-late July, or even early August.
The delay could mean that Shell might only complete as few as two of its five planned exploratory wells. Nevertheless, it now looks inevitable that at least some drilling will be done in Alaska's Arctic waters this summer.