|ConocoPhillips' jack-up Arctic drilling rig, being constructed now|
ConocoPhillips on Thursday revealed that it is moving ahead with plans to drill up to two exploratory wells in Alaska’s arctic waters in 2014 where rival Royal Dutch Shell suffered a number of setbacks this past year.Meanwhile, another player in Arctic drilling isn't poking fun at the Keystone cops at Shell. They are engaged in serious contemplation, something outside of the corporate culture toolkit at Alaska Shell:
ConocoPhillips proposed exploratory drilling program, presented during NOAA’s annual Arctic Open Water Meeting, will focus on the “Devils Paw” prospect located 80 miles offshore in the shallow waters of Chukchi Sea, Alaska. The company says it intends to drill one or two exploration wells during the open water season of 2014 in water depths of approximately 140 feet.
ConocoPhillips’ plan calls for drilling to be conducted using a jack-up rig and a number of support vessels including tugs and barges, ice management and oil spill response vessels, and fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
Reuters reports that the rig to be used is being built by Noble and will be designed for extreme weather conditions.
“We’re not going to bring up a 30-year-old piece of equipment,” said Mike Faust, ConocoPhillips’ Chukchi program manager, during the meeting in Anchorage. Faust also admitted that the company will take Shell’s experience into account, but added that there are a number of differences that set ConoccoPhillips’ program apart including a prospect that is further south, where ice melts earlier in the season.
ConocoPhillips’ exploration plan is currently under review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
This week a top executive with Norway-based Statoil said it would be willing to walk away from Arctic offshore drilling if exploration in the harsh and remote environment proves too risky.
In an interview at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Tim Dodson, Statoil’s executive vice president of global exploration, acknowledged the numerous challenges associated with Arctic offshore drilling and reiterated his company’s cautious approach to exploration in the region.
After spending $23 million on Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, Statoil had planned to begin drilling in 2014, but delayed those plans by a year after watching Shell’s struggle to comply with safety and environmental standards and navigate the challenging conditions — all before drilling into any oil-bearing zones. Now, Dodson said, that may be pushed back even further:
We’ve [said] we wouldn’t drill before 2015. Whether that means we drill in 2015, or maybe not until 2016 or whether we’d drill at all, I think maybe the jury’s still a little bit out on that.
One key reason for Statoil’s reluctance to rush into Arctic offshore operations is the cost involved. Shell has spent approximately $5 billion on equipment and preparations, only to see its state of the art oil spill response equipment “crushed like a beer can” in a routine test off Puget Sound. And both of the company’s specialized Arctic drilling rigs were so badly damaged in accidents last year that Shell will tow them to Asia for substantial repairs — delaying its own exploration plans until at least 2014.
In the aftermath of Shell’s debacles, the Department of the Interior is nearing the end of a 60-day review of the company’s Arctic Ocean drilling program, the results of which are expected as soon as the end of this week.I'm not sure that the failed containment dome on the Arctic Challenger was actually "state-of-the-art." We wouldn't even know how badly the apparatus had failed had it not been for a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Seattle's KUOW. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility have ongoing FOIA's and a lawsuit, regarding the same failed tests, which may reveal even more about Shell's rush to get something going, no matter what the cost - financially or environmentally - in 2012.
Bonus: Picture taken Thursday in Resurrection Bay of the hulk, Noble Discoverer, by Wolfgang Kurtz, for the Seward Phoenix Log: