Shell Oil Company’s chief U.S. official congratulated the White House for accepting the “strategic importance” of oil resources off the Alaskan coast, but asserted that overall tensions between President Obama and the oil industry prevail. “I think you see a lot and you hear a lot about it being a very stressed relationship, and that’s real,” Shell Oil Company president Marvin Odum affirmed Sunday in an interview with Platts Energy Week TV. “We should just be honest about the fact that that’s real.”
Shell has been awaiting approval for federal drilling permits that would allow the company to jumpstart an exploratory-drilling project off the Alaskan coast this summer. The Obama administration has already accommodated some much-needed approvals, and the permits should be certified after the Interior Department completes a series of tests and inspections on the company’s drilling project.
“I think it is a recognition of how strategically important Alaska is and offshore Alaska is to the U.S. and U.S. energy security,” Odum said, adding that there could be more than 25 billion barrels of oil off the Alaskan coast. “I think Alaska is a good example where you would say where the strategic importance of Alaska is understood, because we wouldn’t be where we are today otherwise.”
All in all, Shell has devised a plan to drill five exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas by the end of this year, but if the White House delays the permits, company officials warn that sea ice could scale back drilling. “Let’s take a worse-case: If we didn’t get started until about the middle of August, we are probably more realistically looking at two wells in the Chukchi and maybe one well in the Beaufort,” Odum explained. “That’s just part of the uncertainty that we deal with as we enter an area like this.”
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Photo of Marvin Odum: AP Images