Shell Discoverer Air Permit - Chukchi Sea | Region 10 | US EPA

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Shell Discoverer Air Permit - Chukchi Sea

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Natasha Greaves
(206) 553-7079

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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).

Boundary of the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf

EPA terminates Shell's Arctic OCS Air Permits

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. On December 26, 2013, EPA terminated the Shell’s Discoverer drillship and Kulluk drilling unit OCS permits.

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 fas 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 vessels operated during the 2012 drilling season. Shell has agreed to pay $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)

In September 2012, EPA issued a compliance order to Shell based on their application to revise the Discoverer Chukchi Sea air permit. The compliance order set higher temporary limits for some pollutants than were allowed in the permit. In January 2013, EPA issued two violation notices for Shell’s Discoverer Chukchi Sea and Kulluk Beaufort Sea air permits. EPA also terminated the September 2012 compliance order for the Discoverer Chukchi Sea permit.

Application to Revise Air Permit

In January 2012, EPA issued a final Clean Air Act permit to Shell for the Discoverer drill ship and support fleet to explore for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea. The permit set strict limits on nitrogen oxides, particulates, and other pollutants based on the “best available” emission controls for the Discoverer drill ship and support fleet.

In June, Shell requested to revise the Discoverer Chukchi Sea air permit to allow some higher pollutant limits, based on early tests of their equipment. Shell submitted later requests for permit revisions based on actual equipment performance during their 2012 drilling season.

2011 Final Air Permit Documents and Related Documents

For all other related documents from 2009 through 2011, please visit:

Note: In December 2011, Congress moved the air permitting authority for Arctic offshore exploration from EPA to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement, while EPA continued to process pending air permits.

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