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Petroleum News: Shell Beaufort Sea ACMP review period extended

Vol. 12, No. 12  Week of March 25, 2007
By Alan Bailey

Alaska’s Office of Project Management and Permitting has extended the Alaska Coastal Management Plan consistency review period for Shell’s Beaufort Sea 2007 to 2009 drilling program. OPMP has not yet determined a revised deadline for comments on the plan, but does not anticipate a lengthy delay in the review process, Ben Greene, OPMP oil, gas and energy manager, told Petroleum News March 20.

The deadline for public comments had been March 19.

What Greene described as requests for “an extensive list” of additional information has forced the review period extension. The requests have come from the North Slope Borough and from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Greene said.

“There are questions for Shell. There are also some requests for DEC. And also some requests for ACMP,” Greene said.

Green said that this type of ACMP review extension is a common procedure.

Public hearings

The postponement of the review deadline will also enable the scheduling of two public hearings on the North Slope during the first week of April, Greene said.
“We received requests for a total of four public hearings,” Greene said — those requests came from the villages of Wainwright, Point Hope, Nuiqsut and Kaktovik.

OPMP elected to arrange hearings at Nuiqsut and Kaktovik, because those two villages are close to Shell’s operational area. But OPMP is making teleconference arrangements that will enable the communities at Wainwright and Point Hope to participate in the hearings, Greene said.

Drilling program

Shell is planning to use the Kulluk submersible drilling platform and the Frontier Discoverer drilling vessel to drill three or four wells in the Sivulliq prospect on the western side of Camden Bay in 2007, as part of a program to drill three to four Beaufort Sea wells per year between 2007 and 2009 (see “Shell building legacy” in the Feb. 25 edition of Petroleum News). Sivulliq, previously known as Hammerhead, contains a known oil pool estimated to contain 100 million to 200 million barrels of technically recoverable oil.

Locations for drilling after 2007 will depend on the results of exploration and appraisal work done in 2007.

The project description accompanying Shell’s ACMP application talks about collecting data “to support regulatory, design and engineering efforts” to evaluate the development of the Sivulliq prospect. Data collection includes drilling up to eight geotechnical boreholes at Sivulliq and along “the Point Thompson to Sivulliq corridor” to depths of up to 400 feet. Shell may in the future carry out further geotechnical surveys and the company will also perform marine surveys during the Beaufort Sea open water season.

“Design concepts for a (Sivulliq) offshore facility are being studied,” the project description says. “Any approved facility would be placed offshore to extract the resource with a prospective buried subsea pipeline system passing through Mary Sachs Entrance for landfall in the vicinity of Point Thompson.”

A fleet of 16 vessels would be involved in the Shell 2007 Beaufort Sea open water program. Among those vessels is a newly commissioned oil spill response vessel; Shell has developed a comprehensive oil spill response plan for its drilling activities.

Chukchi and Beaufort seismic

Shell also plans to acquire 3-D seismic data in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea during the summer of 2007. The Beaufort Sea seismic surveys would take place between early August and late October, depending on ice conditions. And in the spring of 2007 the company plans to conduct research into the feasibility of acquiring Beaufort Sea seismic data from floating ice over shallow water in the winter.

“Currently, the (Beaufort) survey areas include the Phoenix-Anago prospect (also known as Cornell) and Sivulliq areas,” the project description says. “The Phoenix area is located outside and west of the Cross Island whaling exclusion zone. The Anago area lies offshore of Kuparuk, Prudhoe Bay, Oooguruk, Milne Point and the NorthStar fields/units, inside the exclusion zone.”

The ACMP consistency review does not include the Shell seismic programs — outer continental shelf seismic work comes under the U.S. Minerals Management Service geological and geophysical permitting procedures. But Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas is reviewing Shell’s proposal for on-ice seismic research, OPMP says.

Conflict avoidance agreement

Shell is negotiating a conflict avoidance agreement with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the Beaufort Sea Whaling Captains Associations for 2007 open water operations. Wildlife monitoring arrangements include aerial surveys, passive acoustic monitoring and the stationing of marine mammal observers on all vessels.

Communications centers in North Slope villages will enable rapid communications between the Shell fleet and subsistence hunters.

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