Shell, under the terms of a permit issued by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, will start groundwork for exploration of the Beaufort Sea. The BSEE said the activity includes the installation of certain safety features like a blowout preventer.
"BSEE has set the bar high for exploration activities in the arctic and any approved operations must meet those standards," BSEE Director Jim Watson said in a statement.
Shell had said it was abandoning certain aspects of its arctic program offshore Alaska because of encroaching sea ice and problems with a containment dome meant to respond to any potential spill in the Chukchi Sea.
The BSEE said Shell's permit supports, but does not equate to, oil production.
"Shell recently notified BSEE that the company does not plan to drill into potentially oil-bearing zones in either the Beaufort or Chukchi Seas this year," the agency stated.
The BSEE said its inspectors are on Shell drill ships in the region full time to monitor the company's approved activities.