Shell Oil president reports progress in Arctic offshore drilling off Alaska's northwest coast

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The president of Shell Oil Co. says exploratory drilling off Alaska’s northwest coast is going well despite stormy weather last week that caused the company to halt operations for a few days.

Marvin Odum told The Associated Press safety will be the overriding determinant of whether Shell completes exploratory wells this year in the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE’) Sea.

Federal regulators have given Shell permission to drill up to six exploratory wells in the Chukchi over two years.

Drilling is strongly opposed by environmental groups.

Shell in 2008 spent $2.1 billion on Chukchi leases and is attempting to confirm a massive oil field that could provide a 50-year supply of petroleum.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Arctic waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas hold up to 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil.