According to Reuters, Royal Dutch Shell could begin drilling in the Arctic off Alaska as early as the third week of July. Shell was granted a conditional green light from the U.S. Department of the Interior in May to resume drilling in the Arctic for the first time since 2012.
The company’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig arrived in Dutch Harbor on June 28th, where it will stay until the ice begins clearing over the area of the Chukchi Sea where they plan to drill. Dutch Harbor is in Unalaska, which is off of mainland Alaska. The drilling is expected to continue through the end of September. This year’s drilling season is expected to include two drilling rigs and a minimum of 25 support vessels, assuming all necessary permits are granted.
Shell expects to have the equipment in place after the first week of July, and assuming the ice clears as expected, the drilling would begin during the third week of July, though, according to Shell spokesman Curtis Smith, that is subject to change depending on the ice conditions.
The company is actually allowed to begin drilling on July 15th, but even though they will likely be starting a week later than that, it is still sooner than the average of the past 11 years by about three weeks.
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