Shell Halts Alaska Drilling Program

During the last week of February Shell announced it will pause its exploration drilling activity for 2013 in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to prepare equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage.

2013.04.10 - Shell Halts Alaska Drilling Program

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” said Marvin Odum, Director, Upstream Americas. “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.”

The company’s effort to tap oil and gas in the warming Arctic — an endeavor that has already cost more than $4.5 billion — has been riddled with problems during the past year. The Obama administration has allowed Shell to proceed with exploratory drilling in the Arctic — over the objections of environmentalists — but it has subjected the company to intense regulatory scrutiny.

Shell’s drilling units Kulluk and Noble Discoverer experienced a string of problems that included the grounding of the Kulluk after the drilling season. In January, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar launched what he called “an expedited, high-level assessment” to “pay special attention to challenges that Shell encountered in connection with certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger; the deployment of its containment dome; and operational issues associated with its two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk.” The U.S. Coast Guard also announced that it had initiated a comprehensive marine casualty investigation of the Kulluk grounding.

Both critics and supporters of Shell’s Arctic offshore foray welcomed its decision to give up on drilling there for 2013 while the company tries to get its drill ships ready and answers to U.S. investigators.

Sources: Shell, Marine Log, The Washington Post, NBC news

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