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Shell to ‘pause’ Arctic offshore drilling program

The anchor-handling vessel, the Aiviq, tows the drilling unit Kulluk to a safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

The anchor-handling vessel, the Aiviq, tows the drilling unit Kulluk to a safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Company still committed to long-term Alaska program

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations, Royal Dutch Shell today said it will press the pause button on its Arctic drilling program for a year.

The company said it wants to better prepare its equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage.

In a press release, Upstream Americas (a Shell subsidiary) director Marvin Odum said, “We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way. Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012,” Odum said.

“Shell remains committed to building an Arctic exploration program that provides confidence to stakeholders and regulators, and meets the high standards the company applies to its operations around the world, he continued. “We continue to believe that a measured and responsible pace, especially in the exploration phase, fits best in this remote area.”

“Shell did the only thing it could do  … suspend Arctic drilling and halt operations for oil exploration this summer,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen. “Whether it was the Kulluk’s grounding, the problems both drilling operations had with Arctic weather and ice,  and the total failure of their oil spill containment system,  Shell’s drilling effort last summer demonstrated with vivid clarity that the oil industry is not ready to drill safely in the Arctic Ocean,” Van Noppen said.

The company said that Alaska  remains an area with high potential for Shell over the long term, and the company is committed to drill there again in the future. If exploration proves successful, resources there would take years to develop.

Shell completed top-hole drilling on two wells in 2012 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, marking the industry’s return to offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic after more than a decade. This drilling was completed safely, with no serious injuries or environmental impact.

After the drilling season ended, however, one of Shell’s drilling rigs, the Kulluk, was damaged in a maritime incident related to strong weather conditions. The Kulluk and the second drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, will be towed to locations in Asia for maintenance and repairs.

Several of the company’s ships and rigs were issued notices of violation for failing to install or maintain pollution control equipment, and some of the machinery was emitting pollution above permitted levels.

The U.S. Department of Interior announced last month that it would conduct a 60-day review of Shell’s drilling program, including a look at some of the mishaps that plagued the company last summer.

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3 Responses

  1. [...] under investigation for a string of violations of various environmental requirements. In February, Shell announced a one year pause in its Arctic drilling program to address the [...]

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