Murkowski Comments on Start of Arctic Drilling by Shell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following comment regarding the start of simultaneous preliminary work by Shell at the company’s Arctic leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

“Today’s announcement is bittersweet,” Murkowski said. “It is welcome news that Shell has finally begun exploration in the Beaufort and that work in the Chukchi is progressing, but it shouldn’t have required 7 years and $3 billion to get to this point. Something is very wrong with this picture.”

Shell resumed operations in the Beaufort Sea on Wednesday, following the conclusion of the fall whale hunt by the community of Kaktovik. The Kulluk drill ship started preparatory drilling at Shell’s Sivulliq prospect at 2:45 p.m. Alaska Standard Time.

Shell’s Noble Discoverer has been drilling at Shell’s Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea since Sept. 24.

This is the first time two rigs have been drilling simultaneously offshore Alaska in more than two decades. Under the terms of its temporary permits, Shell will stop drilling short of penetrating into the hydrocarbon zones in both the Beaufort and Chukchi this season. Shell plans to resume drilling into the hydrocarbon zone in both regions early next summer.

“Moving forward, it’s important that Shell's containment vessel is certified and that the company receives all of the exploration permits it applied for this year as soon as possible,” Murkowski said. “While the permits will not help Shell this season, they will provide all of us with a level of confidence that Shell will be allowed to proceed with drilling next year.” 

Shell has spent a total of nearly $5 billion on federal leases in the Arctic Ocean off of Alaska’s northern coast, including $2 billion on leases and $3 billion on the permitting process and project execution.

The Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast contain an estimated 25 billion barrels of oil and 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the federal government.

“Alaska’s offshore resources are crucial to improving America’s energy security and reducing our dependency on OPEC,” Murkowski said.