The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved suspensions of operations Tuesday in response to requests from the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Exploration, LLC (AEX) related to AEX’s 20-lease Taktuk Unit, and one additional lease, in the Beaufort Sea.
The leases, which are located in the Camden Bay area, approximately 8-25 miles off of the northern shore of the Alaska North Slope, were obtained by AEX from Shell in late 2016.
An Alaska Limited-Liability Company formed in 2008, AEX is a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which represents the business interests of the Arctic Slope Iñupiat.
BSEE’s approval of the suspension requests relied heavily on an AEX appeal to conduct a thorough environmental analysis of its proposed operations in the Beaufort Sea. In light of the history of public interest in Arctic Outer Continental Shelf activities, AEX’s desire to provide a thorough analysis assisted the justification for the suspension approval.
BSEE’s approval also relied upon AEX’s submission of a reasonable schedule of work outlining the steps it intends to follow in the coming years to progress toward lease holding operations on the Taktuk Unit and its additional lease.
As a condition of its approval, BSEE will require AEX to provide written documentation, reports, and other evidence to BSEE on a quarterly basis that clearly demonstrates AEX is meeting or has met the milestones set forth in the reasonable schedule of work. If BSEE determines the circumstances that justified the suspension no longer exist, that other lease conditions warrant termination, or if AEX fails to satisfy the conditions of approval, the suspension can be terminated.
The next major milestone in the path toward exploration is for AEX to submit an exploration plan. Under the approved reasonable schedule of work, AEX must submit an exploration plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2023.