The U.S. government will permit limited oil drilling in waters off the coast of northwest Alaska.
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A, RDS.B) has received the green light from the Department of the Interior to initiate the building of a 40-foot-deep drilling installation and a 1,400-foot-deep top hole with concrete support and piping, the Washington Post noted.
Government permission for the construction comes as the drilling season in Alaskan waters moves toward its close. As winter arrives, ice will eventually make drilling operations too hazardous.
The company has still not yet been cleared to drill into oil reserves, which are estimated to lie at least 4,000 feet below the seabed. Before drilling can begin, it must get regulatory certification for its Arctic Challenger, a ship designed to combat oil spills on the high seas. The presence of the ship is mandated for drilling in the region.
Certification for the Arctic Challenger could take about five days.
Shell had planned to drill as many as six wells in the seabed off Alaska, but will only have time to complete two at most this year. Drilling must be completed in the Chukchi sea by September 24 and in the Beaufort Sea by the end of October.
Environmentalists have criticized both Shell’s drilling plans and the government’s limited approvals. The area is home to various wildlife, including seals and whales, who would be harmed in the event of a spill.