Shell has asked US federal regulators for permission to drill deeper at its site in Arctic waters.
So far the drilling, which began on July 30 after months of anti-drilling protests by environmental groups, has been limited to the top 3,000 feet
That is because Interior Department conditions forbid drilling operations from penetrating into oil-bearing zones until the capping stack (a key piece of emergency response equipment designed to shut-in a well in case of a blowout) is on site and deployable within 24 hours.
The capping stack is on board the icebreaker Fennica, which is heading back to the Arctic after undergoing repairs to its hull. Shell believes the Fennica will arrive on site on Tuesday at the Burger J prospect in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.
Inspectors from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), a branch of Interior, are on board the Polar Pioneer semisubmersible and the Noble Discoverer drillship to make sure those regulations are followed. So far only the Polar Pioneer has been in use.
Shell made its request before the Fennica’s arrival because it could take a few days for the regulators to give a decision.