Warming trends have resulted in less sea ice in arctic waters and exposed areas believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
Shell Alaska President Pete Slaiby told the Platts news service that the company was close to getting approved to work on the outer continental shelf in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
"We can now see a clear path toward getting final approvals for drilling," he said.
Environmental groups worry about the consequences of potential disasters in arctic waters, a concern exacerbated by last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Slaiby said his company was working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get approval for its planned drill ships contracted for work in the northern seas.
Work in the region by Shell is expected next summer.