Italian oil company Eni has started drilling a new oil exploration well in Arctic federal waters from an existing man-made island in the Beaufort Sea.
Eni received an approval from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for Arctic exploration operations on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, the first one in more than two years, in late November.
Two BSEE personnel were on-hand Monday ensuring compliance with approved permits, federal regulations and safety standards as Eni began new well operations from Spy Island drillsite in State waters, the bureau said on Wednesday.
“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 Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash.
The spudding of the well follows the bureau’s 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.
“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 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.
In related, news Trump administration is reportedly looking to roll back a number of safety regulations related to offshore drilling activities put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.