Royal Dutch Shell submitted a plan to the federal government on Thursday to try once again to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic, following years of legal and logistical setbacks as well as dogged opposition from environmentalists.
While the plan is just a first step in the process, it reflects the energy potential in the Arctic. Shell’s proposed programs consist of two drilling rigs working simultaneously in the Chukchi Sea, which could produce more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day.
Shell emphasized that it had not made a final decision on whether to drill next summer. But it said that the filing with the Interior Department preserved its options.
The efforts, even in this preliminary stage, are likely to rankle environmentalists, who argue that drilling in the Arctic is overly risky because of ice floes, darkness in winter and the presence of several species of already threatened wildlife like polar bears. Several environmental groups were quick to say they would oppose Shell’s latest plan, including with court challenges, if it receives government approval.