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The Devil’s Paw is in the details

March 20, 2013

No offshore drilling in the arctic this year in Alaska or in Greenland. But in 2014, Conoco-Phillips will try the Devil’s Paw and Shell is planning to return to the Chukchi Sea.

ConocoPhillips revealed that it is moving ahead with plans to drill up to two exploratory wells in Alaska’s arctic waters in 2014 where rival Royal Dutch Shell suffered a number of setbacks this past year (drilling barge Kulluk was beached after breaking loose from its tow line). ConocoPhillips’ plan calls for drilling to be conducted using a jack-up rig and a number of support vessels including tugs and barges, ice management and oil spill response vessels, and fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. The rig to be used is being built by Noble and will be designed for extreme weather conditions.

ConocoPhillips (COP) acquired 98 leases in Lease Sale 193 at a cost of $506 million. A state of the art jack-up rig will be used for drilling operations. A jack-up rig is optimal for shallow water depths (~140’), minimizes downtime due to weather and provides a surface blow out prevention system for well control and intervention. The rig will be moved using a Heavy Lift Vessel. The rig will be carried on the deck of the vessel, which will transport the rig from its shipyard to the well location. A rigorous Ice Alert System will be used to monitor ice movement, and manage operations to prevent encounters with hazardous ice.


It’s a positive sign that two majors are planning to actively explore for oil offshore in the Chukchi Sea. It is estimated to hold 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Shell had a rough go of it in 2012 with a thirty year old rig. It will be interesting to see if Conoco-Phillips meets with success with modern equipment.