Pipeline to an oil tanker (Photo: GettyImages)The first drilling for natural resources in Alaskan waters for over two decades has been completed for this year. Shell was drilling and intends to return next year to go even deeper.

Shell only had permission to go to 1400 feet with two boreholes, well short of oil and gas deposits. But potential deposits will be sought next year.

Early this summer, at the start of a narrow window for exploratory drilling in the region, thick sea ice clinging to Alaska's shores prevented Shell's ships from cruising to the drill sites.

"The mandatory close of the drilling window offshore Alaska brings to an end a season in which we once again demonstrated the ability to drill safely and responsibly in the Arctic," said Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.

"The work we accomplished in drilling the top portion of the Burger-A well in the Chukchi Sea and the Sivulliq well in the Beaufort Sea will go a long way in positioning Shell for a successful drilling program in 2013."

Oil companies bored 30 exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea and another five in the Chukchi Sea between 1982 and 1997, but Shell's work this summer may signal a new Arctic oil rush. Other companies waiting in the wings with leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas include Repsol and ConocoPhillips.

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