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Arctic Drilling: Inspectors Watching Shell 24/7

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Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.52.57By MarEx 2015-08-07 

Shell has started its drilling operations in the Arctic and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is keeping very close tabs on their activities.

BSEE Inspectors arrived in the Chukchi Sea to ensure the oil major is in compliance with federal regulations and safety standards. The BSEE will oversee Shell’s drilling operations 24/7 in perpetuity. Two inspectors are onsite at the drill sites. One is onboard the Polar Pioneer, a semi-submersible drilling unit, at Burger J. The other is with the Noble Discoverer, a drillship, at Burger V.

Shell’s Arctic drilling operations were approved on July 22, but they included restrictions. BSEE’s primary focus is that the two rigs do not drill simultaneously. While the requirement was not to have operations with 15 miles of each other due to walruses in the area. The Shell rigs are actually only nine miles thus the inspectors oversight.

Additionally, Shell is not permitted to drill into oil-bearing zones until the capping stack is on-site and deployable within 24 hours. Delivery of Shell’s capping stack was delayed because of damage to the M/V Fennica on July 3. MarEx covered the accident in an article you can read here. The capping stack is currently in transit to Chukchi aboard the Fennica.

Shell will be permitted to submit an application to modify these restrictions upon receipt of its capping stack. 

BSEE was established in 2011 to replace the Minerals Management Service (MMS) because of the lack of oversight prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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