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Drill vessels to be sent from Alaska to Asia

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 11:39 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

Further inspections of both vessels will determine the shipyard schedule and timing of their return to service, Smith said.

Shell has not made any final decision on 2013 drilling in Alaska, he said.

Several investigations and reviews of the 2012 Arctic offshore drilling season are under way.

Last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his department would perform an "expedited, high-level assessment" of the summer drilling season.

Salazar said the review would pay special attention to challenges that Shell encountered with the Kulluk, with the Discoverer and with the company's oil spill response barge, which could not obtain certification in time for the drilling season.

Salazar announced the 60-day review shortly after the Coast Guard commander overseeing the Alaska district said he had ordered a formal marine casualty investigation of the Kulluk.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo said the investigation will look at every aspect of the incident, from possible failure of materials to evidence of misconduct, inattention or negligence.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, also announced he would conduct a hearing on the grounding.

It's too soon to know the outcome of those investigations, Smith said Monday.

"In the meantime, we are exploring a range of options for exploration work offshore Alaska in 2013," he said. "Shell remains committed to safely exploring for Alaska's offshore energy resources."