With major oil companies again exploring drilling opportunities in the Chukchi Sea, experts are looking into what impact it might have on northwest Alaska. Shell Oil has even hired an archaeologist to identify cultural sites to be avoided should a pipeline come ashore, The Washington Post reported.
Two decades ago, oil companies explored the Chukchi Sea, but didn’t think it was worth developing. Soaring prices have brought about a re-evaluation and Shell has spent $2.1 billion to acquire Chukchi leases. The company has also spent almost $2 billion to collect seismic data, study the coast, and refurbish ice-breaking ships for drilling 70 miles offshore here and in the Beaufort Sea during the summer of 2012, the Post reported.
“There is a prize over there,” Pete Slaiby, vice president of Shell Alaska, told the Post. However, development could threaten sea mammals the Inupiat hunt and lawsuits have been filed to block drilling.
However, while Shell’s plans were put on hold following last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill they have gained support in Washington, with the House passing a measure that would speed up the necessary permits. Shell needs about 10 permits for each of the three wells it hopes to drill next summer and it working its way through the morass. Slaiby told the Post that “we have to bat 1.000 to be ready to go.”
President Barack Obama has also established an inter-agency group to streamline permitting in Alaska and endorsed oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve, the Post reported.
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