APNewsBreak: Shell halts Chukchi Sea drilling

Associated Press Modified: September 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm •  Published: September 10, 2012

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell on Monday was moving its drill ship off a prospect in the Chukchi Sea, a day after drilling began 70 miles off the Alaska coast because sea ice was moving toward the vessel.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith tells The Associated Press that drilling was stopped for safety reasons.

"As a precautionary measure and in accordance with our approved Chukchi Sea Ice Management Plan, Shell has made the decision to temporarily move off the Burger-A well to avoid potentially encroaching sea ice," he said by email. "Once the ice moves on, the Noble Discoverer will re-connect to anchors and continue drilling."

Shell officials on Sunday were monitoring ice measuring 30 miles long and 12 miles wide about 105 miles away from the drill ship, Smith said by phone.

"We're using satellite images, we're using radar images, we're also using onsite reconnaissance to watch this ice so there are no surprises," Smith said.

The ice varies in thickness, he said, but at its thickest is 25 meters, or about 82 feet. It was moving at 0.5 knots, or less than 1 mph.

The decision to halt drilling was made Sunday. At noon Monday, the drill ship was detaching from the last of eight massive anchors. Smith said he did not know how far away the ice was at that time.

The anchors will stay in place.

"Part of working in ice is having the ability to temporarily relocate," Smith said. "You never want to stop operations when your crews and your equipment are working smoothly but this is what it means to work safely in the Arctic."

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