Oil and gas giant Shell has secured final permit from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to commence drilling operations in potential oil-bearing zones in Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska.
The approval for one application for permit to modify (APM) allows the company to drill at one of the wells at the Burger Prospect, Burger J, and limits to the top section of the Burger V well.
The company submitted an APM to modify the Burger J application for permit to drill (APD) earlier this month.
The APD was previously restricted the company to drill into oil-bearing zones due to absence of a capping stack, as required by BSEE.
BSEE director Brian Salerno said: "Activities conducted offshore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency response standards.
"We will continue to monitor their work around the clock to ensure the utmost safety and environmental stewardship."
The approval prohibits Shell from simultaneous drilling at Burger J and V, and requires the company to maintain a minimum spacing of 15 miles between active drill rigs to avoid significant effects on walruses.
Shell will need to secure additional permits upon potential oil or gas discovery to proceed with production phase, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Since 2007, the company has been carrying out drilling in Arctic. However, it did not intersect any reserves.
The revised exploration plan involves drilling up to six wells within the Burger Prospect using the drillship Noble Discoverer and the semi-submersible drilling unit Transocean Polar Pioneer.
The drilling program follows a nearly two-year suspension due to grounding of a drilling rig. Environmentalists opposed drilling in the Arctic over concerns of oil spill.
The Arctic is estimated to host approximately 20% of the world’s unclaimed oil and gas reserves.
Image: Shell has been carrying out drilling in Arctic since 2007. Photo: courtesy of The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.