What is the Outer Continental Shelf?
The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) refers to federal submerged lands that lie seaward of the states' jurisdiction (generally three nautical miles from the shoreline).
Request to Terminate Air Permit
In 2012, final air permits were issued to Shell for operation of the Discoverer Drillship and the Kulluk Conical Drilling Unit and their associated fleet. In a letter dated November 6, 2013, Shell requested that we terminate the Discoverer and Kulluk air permits. We are currently evaluating Shell’s recent request to terminate the existing permits (PDF) (4 pp, 69K).
Permit Compliance and Enforcement
On September 5, 2013, EPA settled with Shell for violations of their Clean Air Act Outer Continental Shelf permits for arctic oil and gas exploration drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, off the North Slope of Alaska. Based on EPA's inspections and Shell's excess emission reports, EPA documented numerous air permit violations for Shell's Discoverer and Kulluk drill ship fleets, during the approximately two months the vessel operated during the 2012 drilling season. Shell has agreed to pay a $710,000 penalty for violations of the Discoverer air permit and a $390,000 penalty for violations of the Kulluk air permit.
(Sept. 5, 2013) Consent Agreement and Final Order to Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. for air permit violations from Discoverer drillship in Chukchi Sea (PDF) (17 pp, 1.2MB)
(Sept. 5, 2013) Consent Agreement and Final Order to Shell Offshore Inc. for air permit violations from Kulluk drill rig in Beaufort Sea (PDF) (14 pp, 899K)
Minor Permit Modification
On Sept. 28, 2012, EPA issued a minor modification to the Shell Kulluk Minor Source Title V air permit for the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf. The minor permit modification clarifies several permit conditions; corrects typographical and math errors; allows catalyzed diesel particulate filters in place of oxidation catalysts; revises some monitoring and reporting requirements because Shell installed better emissions controls; and revises the Kulluk incinerator emissions for actual waste combusted daily. EPA expects overall emissions to decrease under this minor permit modification.
Shell submitted an application to modify its Kulluk Minor Source Title V air permit on July 5, 2012. Under the Minor Source Title V Part 71 regulations, when Shell filed its minor permit modification application with EPA, Shell is allowed to immediately implement the proposed changes. There are no public comment requirements for Title V minor permit modifications under 40 CFR Part 70/71 regulations on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Shell Kulluk 2011 Final Air Permit Documents
EPA approved a final OCS Minor Source/Title V air permit issued to Shell Offshore Inc. for the Kulluk drill rig on April 12, 2012 and the permit became effective on that date. The permit allows air pollutant emissions from oil and gas exploration drilling by the Kulluk drill rig and a support fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels, and supply ships in the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf. The Minor Source/Title V air operating permit limits Shell’s emissions of regulated air pollutants to less than 250 tons per year. EPA published a public notice of the final permit approval (PDF) (1 page, 202K) in the Federal Register on May 8, 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit is reviewing petitions on the Shell Kulluk air permits. For more information, go to: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/content/faq.php
In December 2011, Congress moved the authority for regulating offshore exploration in the Arctic from EPA to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, but allowed EPA to continue processing “pending permits.”
Draft Permit and Related Documents