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Petroleum News: Shell postpones Beaufort Sea well cellar work until 2007

Shell is postponing the excavation of well cellars in the federal waters of Alaska’s Beaufort Sea until 2007. The company had been planning to excavate the well cellars, also known as glory holes, using the Kulluk drill ship during the 2006 open water season in order to get a jump on drilling for the following year.

“Mud line cellar work is scheduled for 2007 and this adjusted schedule will allow the necessary time for comprehensive planning including extensive stakeholder consultation, regulatory review and staging,” a company official in Anchorage told Petroleum News Aug. 8.

Well cellars protect well equipment, such as blowout preventers, from ice scouring on the sea floor. Shell said most of its Beaufort outer continental shelf leases “off Prudhoe and Kaktovik” were in 100 feet of water.

Shell initially told permitting agencies it would drill only in the open water season. Excavation of the well cellars was to start this month. Actual drilling was to run from July 2007 through 2009 and involve two drill ships, two Russian icebreakers and two Finnish anchor-handling vessels.

Shell did not say whether the decision to hold off on the well cellar excavations would impact its drilling schedule.

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