An American subsidiary of Italian oil giant Eni has begun drilling a new oil well in US Arctic waters offshore Alaska, according to Reuters.
The drilling, under the supervision of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSSE), the agency which regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, is the first in US Arctic waters since 2015 and is happening earlier than expected.
Eni Us Operating Inc is working from an existing man-made island called Spy Island in the Beaufort Sea. It is doing so in the presence of two BSEE employees who are there to ensure there is compliance with permits, regulations and safety standards.
The project, being undertaken in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, is expected to yield 20,000 barrels per day. It will involve two exploration wells and two possible sidetrack wells.
News of the start of drilling there coincided with a release from the US Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying that the assessment of resources in the Arctic has been upgraded.
It was conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy management (BOEM), the Bureau of Land management (BLM) and the US Geological Survey (USGS), all under the DOI umbrella.
The revised assessment covers onshore resources as well as offshore but the offshore part, covering the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf Planning Area, estimates 8.9 billion barrels of oil, an increase of 700 million barrels on the BOEM’s 2016 assessment.