The US Department of the Interior has released the findings of a Departmental review of Shell’s 2012 Arctic operations, which is expected to guide the conduct and lapses of Arctic exploration in the future.

In January 2013, Interior Secretary Salazar had directed the high-level review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling programme in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Arctic.

The review focused on Shell’s failure to obtain certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, on a timely basis and the deployment difficulty of the Arctic Challenger’s containment dome.

The review also focused on serious marine transport issues in connection with both of Shell’s two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk.

Releasing the report, Secretary Salazar said that exploration in the Arctic is an important part of the energy strategy and is vital to understand the oil and gas potential of the region.

"We have said all along that exploration in the challenging and sensitive environment of the Arctic must be done cautiously and subject to the highest safety and environmental standards," Salazar added.

"This assessment took a close look at Shell and the problems they encountered offshore Alaska last year, and makes important recommendations that Shell should follow as it resumes its Arctic program."

The review has found that Shell entered the 2012 drilling season without finalising key components of its programme.

On the review report, Land and Minerals Management principal deputy assistant secretary Tommy Beaudreau, who also led the review team, said, "Shell simply did not maintain strong, direct oversight of some of its key contractors."