Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell sees big oil, gas potential in US Arctic

Volume: 25, No. 9 March 3 – 9, 2008


Royal Dutch Shell is looking for oil and gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the coast of Alaska, but the finds will have to be significant to justify the huge cost of development, a senior Shell executive said.

Shell surprised many in the oil industry when it bid $2.1 billion for acreage in this month’s controversial auction of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, a large polar bear habitat, and one of the least explored areas in US federal waters.

However, after conducting two years of seismic surveys in the Chukchi ahead of its bid, Shell is confident the area is one of the most promising exploratory basins in its portfolio.
“We’ve picked up licenses and blocks based on those surveys, and we’ve been confident to put that kind of money there,” Annell Bay, vice president of exploration for the Americas at Shell, said in an interview. The US Minerals Management Service, which regulates oil and gas activities in federal waters, thinks 15 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be found in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell’s aggressive bidding in the Chukchi comes two years after it picked up acreage in the adjacent Beaufort Sea, where the Anglo-Dutch giant is aiming to tap oil fields that were found decades earlier but were left undeveloped due to high costs.

Previous drilling in the Chukchi also turned up signs of large hydrocarbon deposits, including a large gas prospect called Burger, which some industry observers have suggested could be large enough to support a liquefied natural gas project.

“I think there is scope for both oil and gas (at Burger), but we’ll have to drill first to get an idea of the scope,” Bay said. “It’s too early to talk about development options.”
A 2004 MMS study estimated Burger holds 14 trillion cubic feet of gas and 724 million barrels of condensate.

Developing a find in the Chukchi Sea would be particularly challenging as it is hundreds of miles away from the nearest oil and gas infrastructure and is covered by ice for much of the year.

Bay said the prospect that climate change would lead to longer ice-free summers on the Chukchi had not played a role in Shell’s planning for the bid round. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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