Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, won approval from U.S. regulators to drill five exploratory wells at the Appomattox discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. The Shell proposal is the second deep-water exploration plan approved in the Gulf since the U.S. government lifted a moratorium on deep-water drilling in October, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Shell (RDS-A) plans to drill those wells 7,200 feet below the Gulf surface 72 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, the agency that oversees offshore drilling U.S. waters, determined that Shell's plan meets safety standards implemented following the Gulf spill in April 2010.
BOEMRE added that it will no longer issue press statements regarding new Gulf approvals. Regarding Shell's attempts to commence drilling in the Arctic region of Alaska, the company has met with White House and Environmental Protection Agency this week in an effort to secure the necessary permits to move forward with plans to drill up to 10 exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
Marvin Odum, Shell's executive director for oil and gas production in the Americas, told the Financial Times the company is ''cautiously optimistic'' regarding its Alaska plans. Shell has already spent $3.5 billion on the plans and is halfway into a 10-year Alaska lease agreement.