Shell gets final OK on air permit for Chukchi Sea drilling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Appeals Board has approved Shell Oil's air quality permit for the Noble Discoverer drillship, Shell announced Thursday.

The drilling vessel will be used by Shell to drill up to three exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea this summer if Shell secures other permits and approvals that are still pending.

The EAB, an internal appeals panel within the EPA, denied petitions for review of the permits filed by environmental groups.

“Achieving usable air permits from the EPA is a very important step for Shell and one of the strongest indicators to date that we will be exploring our Chukchi and Beaufort Sea leases in July,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said in a statement. “That our air permits for the Noble Discoverer withstood appeal is a testament to the robust nature of the work we have done to have the smallest possible impact on the Arctic airshed,” Smith said.

Shell equipped the drillship with advanced emissions control technology and will use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in operations of the vessel. Shell is planning to use another drill vessel, the Kulluk, in the Beaufort Sea in 2012.

The company has not yet decided to mobilize for the summer drilling.

“The validation of Shell’s first air quality permits is almost the end of what has been a long and exhaustive process,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “I’m relieved that the EPA’s internal appeals board chose here not to drag out the process any further, and I hope that the permits for Shell’s second drillship, the Kulluk, are similarly confirmed in a timely manner.”  

04/20/2012 - 6:31am