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Shell Alaska News and Events

Drill Rig Kulluk Departs Dutch Harbor

On August 20, 2012, the Conical Drilling Unit (CDU) Kulluk departed Dutch Harbor for the waters of the Beaufort Sea.

The sail away marks another step towards delivering on Shells 2012 Exploration Plans.

The Drill Rig Kulluk in Dutch Harbor

The Drill Rig Kulluk in Dutch Harbor

Shell continues to make progress towards drilling in Alaska in 2012. Lingering sea ice, combined with the time required to complete the Arctic Containment System and regulator imposed limitations in the Chukchi Sea will limit our program this year to fewer wells than initially planned. Our goal remains making the most of the time we do have in 2012 and that means planning for one well in each theater.

Safety of personnel and the environment are always at the forefront of all of Shell’s operations.  We will continue to be diligent in checking and re-checking our plans, procedures and operations.   

Shell’s 2012 Team

Shell’s employees and contractors have been planning, preparing and training for years for drilling in offshore Alaska.  Our team of more than 1800 individuals is in place, working on the many vessels, aircraft, and land based assets required for Shell’s 2012 exploration program.   Roles range from Communication Center Operators, to Pilots, to Protected Species Observers, to Cooks, to Drilling Foremen, and more.

Support Vessels

Most of Shell’s drilling support and science vessels have been conducting activities in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas over the past weeks.  Work has included ongoing data collection such as the deployment of acoustic buoys and surveys, anchor placement for the rigs, ice scouting and crew changes.

Arctic Containment System

The construction and deployment of the first-of-its-kind Arctic Containment System is taking longer than expected.  Our foremost priority is having a system that is safe, sound and capable under Arctic conditions.  We will not compromise our safety standards.

We are currently working through the remaining construction items with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).  We are dedicating a great deal of our attention and effort to the final completion of the containment barge, which we will not deploy in the Arctic until it’s ready. 


Shell specialists monitor the ice movement on a 24-hour basis.  At this time, ice is still present in both the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, although no longer at the prospect sites. 

Projected Wells

Given the short windows in which we have to work this year, it’s now clear we will not complete five wells to total depth in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.  We are still working to deliver a total depth well at our Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea.  We will work to achieve the same in the Beaufort Sea but there are many variables including duration of the whaling season.

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Learn more about the vessels associated with Shell’s exploration program.