Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shell Pauses its Arctic Drilling for 2013

On Wednesday, February 27th, Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced it will suspend offshore petroleum drilling in the Arctic Ocean for 2013. The Arctic is already suffering from the effects of climate change and Arctic drilling further endangers the rich ecosystem and puts a wide range of animal species at risk.

Last year Shell drilled in both the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast and in the Beaufort Sea off the state's north coast.

However Shell's operations in the far north have been plagued by problems. At the end of 2012, the Kulluk one of Shell's oil rigs, broke free and ran aground in rough seas.

Shell Oil President Marvin Odum described the decision as a "pause" to "to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012."

According to the US Geological Survey, there are 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas exist below Arctic waters.

Shell does not have resources in place to manage a spill. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico make it abundantly clear that even the best efforts and grossly inadequate to contain a spill.

Ice makes deep sea drilling even more hazardous. Ships belonging to Shell were prevented from accessing the drilling site in the Chukchi Sea which forced a drill ship off a drilling site early in September.

The Coast Guard found 16 safety violations on the Noble Discoverer, which drilled in the Chukchi. The investigation has been turned over to the US Department of Justice.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that his department would perform an "expedited, high-level assessment" and he indicated that drilling in sensitive areas like the Arctic demand a higher level of scrutiny. The Coast Guard also is reviewing the Kulluk grounding.

The pause is intended to repair its ships and Shell has indicated that it is prepared to continue drilling in the Arctic next year.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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