Oil firm Royal Dutch Shell has got approval from the US Department of Interior to explore for arctic oil once other US regulators and the State of Alaska give their endorsements.
In 2013, Shell stopped exploration in the Arctic after various problems like and oil rig fire and safety failures.
Environmentalists have been against this exploration, estimated to have about 20% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.
The oil giant says it has taken precautionary measures like drilling up to six wells in water about 40 metres deep, using two vessels that can serve as backups incase of an emergency.
“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” said Abigail Ross Harper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in a statement.
Susan Murray, an official at Oceana, a group against Arctic drilling, said: “Our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth.”
Among Shell’s woes the last time it tried to drill in the area were its failure to have a spill-response barge on site before the drills reached oil-bearing zones, as it had promised, and the outbreak of fire on the Noble Discoverer rig that Shell had hired.
The Kulluk, a circular drilling barge, broke away from its towing vessel and ran aground on its way to a shipyard in Washington state.
“The approval of our Revised Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan is an important milestone and signals the confidence regulators have in our plan,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith.