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Shell committed to offshore safety

  |   Aug. 16, 2012 at 6:47 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Oil company Shell said it agreed with U.S. regulators to drill in waters off the coast of Alaska only when an oil-spill response system is in place.

Shell's operational fleet is docked at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as it waits for sea ice to clear. The regional conditions mean Shell needs to finish work in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas by October to avoid reforming ice sheets.

The company is reworking its Arctic Challenger barge, part of a system meant to collect oil in the event of an accident like the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, to meet U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

"Progress related to the final construction of the Arctic Challenger containment barge remains steady," Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh told Bloomberg News. "We continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard."

U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said, during a conference call with reporters, that he'd hold Shell's "feet to the fire" to ensure the company meets federal regulations in the region.

Shell aims to access an offshore region said to hold more than 20 million barrels of oil. It's cut its ambitions, however, because of lingering seasonal sea ice this year.

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