Under the permit approved, Shell will be allowed to begin certain preparatory activities in the Chukchi Sea that will increase overall safety. These activities include the creation of a mudline cellar, a safety feature that ensures that the blowout preventer is adequately protected below the level of the seafloor. Shell is also authorized to drill and set the first two strings of casing into shallow non-oil-bearing zones.
Under conditions and requirements set forth in Shell's Chukchi and Beaufort Sea Exploration Plans and Oil Spill Response Plans, which were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and BSEE, Shell is required to receive certification of its containment system, which is designed to capture flowing liquid hydrocarbons in the unlikely event of a loss of well control, by the U.S. Coast Guard and have the vessel positioned in the Arctic before any drilling into oil-bearing zones can occur. BSEE engineers recently conducted an initial inspection of Shell's containment system, but the company has yet to secure the final Coast Guard certification.
BSEE inspectors will be present on the Noble Discoverer to provide continuous oversight and monitoring of all approved activities. BSEE safety experts have already conducted thorough and comprehensive inspections of the drillship and Shell's response equipment.
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