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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

BOEMRE Conditionally Approves Shell Exploration Plan for Beaufort
On August 4, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued conditional approval for a revised Exploration Plan submitted by Shell Offshore Inc. The plan outlines Shell's proposal to drill up to four shallow water exploration wells in Alaska's Beaufort Sea beginning in July 2012. The leases to be explored under the current EP were acquired by Shell as part of Beaufort Sea Planning Area Oil and Natural Gas Lease Sales 195 and 202 held in 2005 and 2007 respectively.

An EP describes all exploration activities planned by an operator on a specific lease or leases, including the anticipated timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and other relevant information. In addition to gaining approval of an EP, a company must submit applications for permits to drill for every well proposed. Each APD is analyzed based upon the unique characteristics of the proposed well, and must fully comply with rigorous safety and environmental standards. These standards address issues ranging from well design and workplace safety, to requiring that operators demonstrate that they are prepared to deal with the potential for a blowout and worst-case discharge.

Based on its review of the plan, new information that included extensive input from stakeholders, and previous National Environmental Policy Act analyses, BOEMRE found no evidence that the proposed action would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Therefore, BOEMRE determined that an Environmental Impact Statement was not required, and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, a key step in the approval of the EP.

  • Click here to read the conditional approval letter and related documents