Alaska Region

NOAA works together with Shell toward a common goal of safety.  Here Dr. Sullivan hears how Shell monitors operations

NOAA works together with Shell toward a common goal of safety. Here Dr. Sullivan hears how Shell monitors operations

Most Americans have a stance on Arctic Oil Drilling.  What’s yours?  Regardless of perspective, the common interests of both sides are quite similar:  provide opportunity for economic growth, maintain Native Alaskan ways of life, and protect natural resources, just to name a few.  In 2015 NOAA Alaska worked towards these goals by making sure everyone in NOAA knew their responsibilities, collaborating with industry and other agencies to maintain operational safety throughout the drill season, deploying instruments for additional observations and data collection, and providing situation briefings to leadership.

We love showing off our partnerships to Administration leadership. Here RTL Aimee Devaris and BOEM Regional Director Jim Kendall pose after jointly briefing BOEM Director Abigail Hopper (far L)

We love showing off our partnerships to Administration leadership. Here RTL Aimee Devaris and BOEM Regional Director Jim Kendall pose after jointly briefing BOEM Director Abigail Hopper (far L)

In late spring we conducted a review of NOAA’s roles and responsibilities (R&R) related to Shell’s Arctic drilling program with regional leadership.  The AK exercise  1) reviewed respective R&R ( weather and sea ice, marine mammal issues, and pollution),  2) documented known oversight and coordination meetings and mechanisms, 3) used scenarios to identify where LO R&R would overlap. This work was folded into a companion NOAA Leadership event in DC.  In addition, team members provided situation status updates each Monday to NOAA leadership at the weekly tag-up.

Each week we also conducted multiple coordination calls with Shell (weather and sea ice forecast coordination), BOEM ( weather and sea ice information to determine whether they needed to change the date Shell had to leave the site at the end of the season and to stay situationally aware of any storms that would cause Shell to suspend operations and potentially cause an incident) and multiple agencies for protected species oversight.

While Shell and Statoil put their Arctic exploration plans on hold, other oil and gas activities are keeping our attention.  Hilcorp submitted a development and production plan for Liberty in Prudhoe Bay and ConocoPhillips is moving ahead with a coastal prospect west of Deadhorse.  These will require continued review, consultation, and decision support services from NOAA in 2016 and beyond.

amy.holman@noaa.gov

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