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Shell plans to use the Transocean Polar Pioneer, shown here in Dutch Harbor, Alaska,  to drill in the Chukchi Sea. (Photo: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)

Obama administration OKs Arctic drilling, but imposes big constraints on Shell

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Shell could begin work within days, but the government-imposed restrictions could keep its drill bits from reaching potential oil-bearing rock thousands of feet below the surface of the Chukchi Sea.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns after an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

New offshore safety rules would make drilling some wells too difficult, industry lobbyists tell White House

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More than a dozen oil companies and drilling contractors joined leading industry trade groups in pushing back against proposed federal mandates for offshore wells they say would make some impossible to drill. The proposed requirements were spurred by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The drillship Noble Discoverer undergoes sea trials off Singapore in November 2014, following shipyard work and upgrades. Those improvements included a new main propulsion system, environmental controls and enhancements to the drilling systems. (Photo: Noble Corp.)

Shell-contracted drillships begin final Arctic journey

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Shell Oil Co. still doesn’t have the final permits it needs to begin boring an exploratory oil well in the Chukchi Sea, but the Noble Discoverer’s departure from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on Friday suggests the company’s confidence that those authorizations are on the horizon.  
(Marcus Bengtsson/Creative Commons)

Environmentalists insist feds must block Shell’s Arctic drilling while icebreaker is away

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Shell is counting on the Fennica to keep ice at bay during normal drilling operations as well as any oil spill response, noted 10 environmental groups in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
(Marcus Bengtsson/Creative Commons)

Coast Guard probing cause of gash in Shell-contracted icebreaker

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In the Alaska port of Dutch Harbor on Thursday, workers were considering how to fix the damage to the MSV Fennica, which was discovered by crew members and a marine harbor pilot on July 3.
(Marcus Bengtsson/Creative Commons)

Shell’s Arctic icebreaker damaged in Alaska

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Shell’s contracted ice management vessel, the MSV Fennica, is being examined by marine experts, but it is uncertain how quickly a breach in its hull can be repaired and whether this will delay the company’s hopes to begin drilling an oil well in the Chukchi Sea later this month.
(AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, S.A. Sonsthagen)

Obama administration delivers big blow to Shell’s Arctic drilling plans

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The Fish and Wildlife Service said it could not authorize sound from Shell’s planned drilling of wells roughly nine miles apart to disturb walruses in the Chukchi Sea, because a 2013 requirement mandates a 15-mile buffer zone.
Shell used the drillship Noble Discoverer for its 2012 drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska.  (Jennifer A. Dlouhy / The Houston Chronicle)

Shell’s Arctic drillship heads to Alaska

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The trip moves Shell physically closer to resuming exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean next month, even though the company is still seeking four essential federal approvals to launch the work.
Seattle's skyline provides the backdrop for the Transocean Polar Pioneer, while it is being loaded with supplies in the city's port in May 2015. Shell plans to use the rig this summer to bore an exploratory oil well at its Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles northwest of the Alaska coast. A separate drillship, the Noble Discoverer, is set to work on another Burger well at the same time. (Jennifer A. Dlouhy / The Houston Chronicle)

Shell’s Arctic drilling plans may hit permitting snag

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It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether the restriction highlighted by environmentalists opposed to Shell’s Arctic drilling campaign would derail the company’s plans, but it could be a major stumbling block.
The capping stack -- part of Shell's "Arctic Containment System" for a blown-out well -- is tested in waters near Washington state. Here, it is lifted by an A-frame before being lowered 150 feet into the water. (Photo: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)

Feds say Shell completed test for blown-out well response ahead of Arctic drilling

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The exercises, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday in waters near Washington state, focused on Shell’s capping stack, designed to sit atop a damaged well and choke off flowing oil and gas.