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EPA issues final air permit to Shell Offshore Inc. for Arctic oil and gas exploration

Release Date: 10/21/2011
Contact Information: Suzanne Skadowski, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-6689, skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov  

(Seattle – Oct. 21, 2011) Today, EPA Region 10 issued a final air permit to Shell Offshore Inc. for oil and gas exploration drilling in the Alaska Arctic. This air permit is one of several federal authorizations Shell needs to explore for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Beaufort Sea starting in July 2012.

The permit authorizes air pollutant emissions during Shell’s exploration drilling with the Kulluk drill rig and a support fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels, and supply ships for up to 120 days each year. The Outer Continental Shelf minor source/Title V air operating permit limits Shell’s emissions of most air pollutants to less than 250 tons per year, which is the “major source” permit threshold in the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program.

EPA’s final permit significantly reduces the potential air pollution from Shell's drilling operations and protects the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Strict pollution controls in the permit include selective catalytic reduction units and catalytic oxidation reduction units on some engines, use of low-sulfur diesel fuel fleet-wide, and limits on operational hours. The permit reduces Shell's potential emissions of sulfur dioxide from 833 to 10 tons per year, nitrogen oxide from 2,339 to 240 tons per year, carbon monoxide from 855 to 200 tons per year, and greenhouse gases from 141,487 to 80,000 tons per year.

EPA Region 10 proposed the draft Kulluk permit for public comment on July 22, 2011 and held public hearings in Barrow and Anchorage, Alaska on Aug. 23 & 26, 2011. The final permit and EPA Region 10 responses to public comments are available at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/airpage.nsf/Permits/kullukap/

Public appeals for review of this permit must be received by the Environmental Appeals Board no later than Nov. 28, 2011. Information about filing an appeal can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/eab/.

On Sept. 19, 2011, EPA Region 10 issued two “major source” Prevention of Significant Deterioration air permits to Shell for oil and gas exploration drilling in the Alaska Arctic. Shell intends to use the Discoverer drillship and associated fleet to explore for oil and gas in both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in 2012.

In July 2011, EPA Region 10 proposed a similar draft Outer Continental Shelf Title V air permit for ConocoPhillips to explore for oil and gas using a jack-up drill rig in the Chukchi Sea. On Sept. 26, 2011 ConocoPhillips withdrew their permit application and expects to reapply in December 2011.

Find out more about EPA Region 10 permits in the Alaska arctic at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/AIRPAGE.NSF/Permits/ocsap/

EPA Region 10 air permits ensure compliance with air quality regulations during drilling operations but on their own do not authorize drilling. The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is the federal agency that provides authorization to drill. Find more information at: http://www.bsee.gov/.