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Shell starts drilling in Beaufort

Week of October 07, 2012

Shell has announced that its floating drilling platform, the Kulluk, has started drilling in the company’s Sivulliq prospect in the Beaufort Sea. The rig had been on standby, waiting for the completion of the Kaktovik whale hunt, before starting drilling. Shell has permission from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to drill well top holes in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

“The Kulluk conical drilling rig began drilling at Shell’s Sivulliq prospect at approximately 2:45 PM AKDT,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith on Oct. 3 in a press release announcing the start of drilling. “The occasion is historic in that it’s the first time two rigs have been drilling simultaneously offshore Alaska in over two decades. The Noble Discoverer has been drilling at Shell’s Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea since September.”

Pete Slaiby, Shell’s Alaska vice president, has told Petroleum News that the drilling of the Burger A well in the Chukchi has restarted. A huge ice floe had interrupted the operation there by drifting across the drill site, causing the drillship to temporarily move away.

Shell had originally planned to complete several wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas this year. But, following delays in the fitment of the company’s new Arctic oil containment system into the barge that carries it and subsequent damage to the containment system during testing, the company has trimmed back its expectations to the drilling of the top-hole sections of several wells.

Slaiby emphasized that the drilling of a top hole is a significant activity, enabling a well to be completed relatively rapidly during a subsequent drilling season.

“When we’re talking about a top hole we’re talking about 14 days’ worth of work on a well, and then literally another 10 days to get the well down through the objective,” Slaiby said. “So this is a big deal.”

—Alan Bailey

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