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The Interior Department announced it was canceling government auctions of drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, previously scheduled for 2016 and 2017 respectively. At the same time, it formally rejected bids by Statoil and Shell for more time to search for crude under their existing Arctic leases.
The records, provided by the U.S. Coast Guard in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, also describe a botched fire drill by the crew of another Shell-contracted drilling rig months before it began boring an exploratory oil well in the Chukchi Sea.
Shell has already been drilling the well for more than two weeks. But BSEE had ordered the company to halt after completing the top 3,000 feet, because critical emergency equipment were not nearby to safeguard the work.
The decision to stitch up a meter-long gash in the MSV Fennica at a Vigor Industrial shipyard in Oregon, rather than on site in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, is another setback for Shell.
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.
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.
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.
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.