The following is the text of a news release from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE):
(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — New oil exploration in Arctic federal waters is underway this week with the spudding of a new oil well from an existing man-made island in the Beaufort Sea. Two Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement personnel were on hand Monday ensuring compliance with approved permits, federal regulations and safety standards as Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. began new well operations from the Spy Island drill site in state waters.
“The Arctic is an important component of the administration’s national energy strategy, and today’s news is great for America as the United States advances toward energy dominance,” said Joe Balash, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “Interior is actively working with a number of Alaska native partners, who rely on the Beaufort and Chukchi seas for their subsistence way of life, to ensure a healthy environment for today and future generations.”
The spudding of the well follows the bureau’s Nov. 28 approval of Eni’s application for permit to drill, and a pre-drill inspection Dec. 6-10. During a pre-drill inspection, BSEE examined drilling equipment, assessed overall readiness, tested key safety devices, and verified lease stipulations and environmental mitigation measures.
"The Arctic offshore is an important part of the federal Outer Continental Shelf," said BSEE Director Scott Angelle. "BSEE will be at the forefront working with operators to promote safe and environmentally-sustainable operations."
“It’s critical that our BSEE inspection team were on hand this month to witness equipment tests and verify all operations,” said BSEE Alaska Region Director Mark Fesmire. “As drilling operations continue, BSEE will provide oversight to ensure operations are being conducted in accordance with approved plans and permits.”
Throughout the drilling of the well, BSEE Alaska Region inspectors will make visits to the drill site, both on a regular schedule and at times of critical operations such as blowout preventer testing.
In addition to the new federal OCS drilling operations from Spy Island, BSEE Alaska Region personnel, in coordination with the state of Alaska, currently oversee oil production at Northstar Island in the Beaufort Sea, producing approximately 10,000 barrels of oil per day. A second project in the Beaufort Sea, known as Liberty, is currently in the draft environmental impact statement phase with the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management. If permitted, Liberty would be the first completely federal OCS production facility in the Alaska Region.
Editor's note: Eni is the first company to begin drilling in U.S. Arctic waters since 2015. It is working with Royal Dutch Shell, which abandoned its offshore exploration activities in Alaska that year, citing high costs and strict regulations. Click here to read the story.