Shell Oil Delays Deep Water Drilling Until Next Season

Shell announced Monday (9/17) it will be pursuing a top hole only program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea.

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by Megan Mazurek

Shell announced Monday (9/17) it will be pursuing a top hole only program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea.

Damage to Shell's oil spill containment barge off the coast of Washington state changed the oil company's drilling plans.

Over the weekend, while testing the containment dome on the Arctic Challenger, the dome was damaged and officials say it was clear it will take some time to repair. The dome is meant to block any release of oil or natural gas if there was an underwater spill.

The top hole's won't go to the depth where the company believes oil and pockets of natural gas lie but Shell says the preliminary work does lay a foundation for the 2013 drilling season. Due to the changes the company is now working with a new timeline.

"Now that we're only pursuing a top hole program we're no longer needing an extension in the Chukchi Sea," said Curtis Smith, Shell Oil spokesperson. "We can drill all the way to October 31st and we can do the same thing in the Beaufort sea. The Kulluk is standing by waiting for the whale hunt to end in the Beaufort and when it does we'll move on and begin drilling there."

Arctic sea ice has also delayed Shell's drilling operations this summer.

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