Shell Calls Alaska Delays ''Highly Unusual''

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Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, called delays to its plans to drill in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Alaska's Arctic region ''highly unusual'' and noted government efforts to block the company from moving forward undermine confidence in the federal offshore program, Bloomberg News reported.

Shell (RDS-A) wanted to commence drilling in the region this year, but that plan was pushed back following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April 2010. The federal government's subsequent moratorium on deepwater drilling impacted Shell's plans for new Alaska drilling.

The company is more than four years into 10-year leases in Alaska and has yet to be able to start the new projects due to regulatory delays. The company has said it needed two years to prepare for drilling in the Beaufort Sea and was ready in 2007, Bloomberg reported.

Shell unveiled exploration plans last month and is aiming to drill up to two wells per year in the Beaufort Sea. Its leases there expire in 2015. Shell is also looking to drill up to three wells per year in the Chukchi Sea between 2012 and 2013. Environmental groups have opposed drilling in the region, claiming it would be even more difficult to respond to a major spill there than it was in the Gulf of Mexico.