Shell Says Alaska Drilling Starting This Weekend

Noble’s Discoverer drillship is assisted by tugs as it left a Seattle shipyard in June. Photo: Vigor

Royal Dutch Shell PLC‘s (RDSA, RDSA.LN, RDSB, RDSB.LN) U.S. unit said Friday drilling in Alaska’s Arctic offshore will likely begin over the coming weekend, after a drillship sets down anchor over the first oil-and-gas prospect targeted by the Anglo-Dutch oil company in the Chukchi Sea.

The drillship, Noble Corp.’s (NE) Noble Discoverer, is in the process of mooring its eight anchors on the seafloor, a Shell spokeswoman said. Once operations start, the vessel’s crew will drill the top portion of an oil well.

The company also said it would test an oil-spill-containment system during the weekend.

Shell’s six-year-long campaign to open up vast oil riches off Alaska’s coast has been delayed by environmental lawsuits, cautious regulators and bad weather, including persistent ice. The company has only a few weeks to conduct its plans, focused on drilling the top part of several wells, before the summer drilling season is over.

By Angel Gonzalez. (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.