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Shell Allowed to Restart Drilling Off French Guiana

by  Dow Jones Newswires: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

PARIS – Royal Dutch Shell PLC will soon be allowed to resume oil exploration off the coast of French Guiana, lawmakers from the overseas French department said Wednesday.

The exploration “will be allowed to restart,” probably on Monday, said a lawmaker after a meeting with the French minister for the overseas departments, Victorin Lurel.

Two other lawmakers, Georges Patient and Chantal Berthelot, confirmed that Guiana has been given “the authorization to sign off” on the permits greenlighting the relaunch of the project.

“The prefecture has signed the authorization today, Wednesday, and so the exploration can restart Monday,” said Ms. Berthelot, noting that Shell’s forage vessel had arrived Tuesday as planned on Guiana waters.

The project was suspended shortly after the new French administration took office earlier in June, as France began reexamining Shell’s licenses in Guiana over environmental concerns.

Environment minister Nicole Bricq and the minister for re-industrialization Arnaud Montebourg said in a joint statement then that the Shell project “insufficiently…took into account environmental problems.”

But on Wednesday, Mr. Patient said the exploration would now go ahead as “progress has been made in terms of environmental guarantees as well as economic guarantees.”

Shell holds a “Guiana Maritime” permit to look for oil with partners that include the French oil group Total, Tullow Oil and Northpet Investments.

The permit was issued in 2001, has been extended three times, and is valid until 2016.

Shell is responsible for the drilling and was waiting for authorization from French prefectures to begin.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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