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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 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.
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.
The Noble Discoverer, now docked in Washington state waters, has received a critical “certificate of compliance” from the U.S. Coast Guard verifying it meets a host of safety and security requirements. Since a May 20 Coast Guard inspection, Shell and Noble cleared more than a dozen violations documented at the vessel.
The approval means Shell has just four remaining federal permits that are essential for it to resume drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer.
Noble Corp. pleaded guilty Monday to eight criminal charges tied to pollution, propulsion and record keeping problems with the two drilling rigs that bored Arctic oil wells for Shell in 2012.
More details came to light Tuesday on Shell’s plans for exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska, as federal regulators released a copy of the company’s broad Arctic drilling blueprint.
Federal regulators scrutinizing Shell’s bid to resume Arctic drilling next summer are pressing the company for more evidence it has fixed the kind of problems that plagued its last search for black gold in the region.
Shell’s troubled quest for Arctic oil in 2012 — now capped with a $1.1 million fine for environmental violations — will make the company better prepared to return to the region, a spokesman said Friday.
In a settlement with the federal government announced late Thursday, Shell Oil Co. will pay $1.1 million in fines to settle claims that it violated air pollution permits while drilling in U.S. Arctic waters last year.