Shell Suspends Arctic Drilling Amid Safety Concerns

By Alex Johnston On February 27, 2013 @ 6:43 pm In West | No Comments

Shell suspends Arctic drilling in 2013 in order to “prepare equipment” after two of its drilling ships were sent in for repairs.

Salvage teams conduct an assessment of Shell's Kulluk drill barge on Jan. 9, 2013 in Kodiak Island's Kiliuda Bay in Alaska. (Tim Aubry/AFP/Getty Images)

Salvage teams conduct an assessment of Shell's Kulluk drill barge on Jan. 9, 2013 in Kodiak Island's Kiliuda Bay in Alaska. (Tim Aubry/AFP/Getty Images)

Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell said it would suspend drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2013 to “prepare equipment,” citing safety concerns. But the company said it will resume activity later on.

The firm will temporarily halt exploratory drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, reads a press release issued on Wednesday. It said that while Alaska has crucial resources, it is of paramount importance to secure “access to those resources,” as it takes a “special expertise” to do so.

In 2012, Shell—considered a leader in the industry’s efforts in Arctic exploration—drilled two holes for two wells in both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. It said that the holes were drilled without incident or environmental impact.

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” Shell Oil Company President, Marvin Odum, said in the release. “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.”

Shell acknowledged that Alaska is a place with high potential over the long term.

“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,” added Odum. “We continue to believe that a measured and responsible pace, especially in the exploration phase, fits best in this remote area.”

Last fall and winter, two of Shell’s drill ships were in serious accidents while they were leaving sites in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, reported The New York Times. They are being sent for repairs in Asia and might not be fixed in a timely enough manner to begin drilling this year.

Shell has invested more than $4.5 billion in equipment and leases so it could drill in the Arctic Ocean.

Lois N. Epstein, the Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society, told the Times that Shell’s announcement was not a surprise.

“Shell has had numerous serious problems in getting to and from the Arctic, as well as problems operating in the Arctic,” he said. “Shell’s managers have not been straight with the American public, and possibly even with its own investors, on how difficult its Arctic Ocean operations have been this past year.”

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