Faced with iced-in Arctic waters and failure to secure U.S. Coast Guard approval of its oil-spill barge, Royal Dutch Shell is ratcheting down its plan to drill as many as five exploratory wells this summer in the seas north of Alaska.
The company planned to sink the wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas during a brief window between July and October, when the waters were expected to be clear of severe ice. But Pete Slaiby, Shell’s vice president for Alaska operations, said it’s unlikely the company will be able to meet that goal due to regulatory challenges and stubborn ice.
It has been seven years since Shell obtained its first leases for U.S. Arctic exploration. The project was delayed after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The planned Arctic drilling is in shallow waters, but the Chukchi Sea in particular is pristine, and the project faces intense scrutiny by environmental groups. Native Alaskans rely on the ocean for food. And environmentalists say oil-spill response techniques in icy waters remain untested. A major spill would have catastrophic consequences.
“It’s just a really, really risky business,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. Arctic program.
Read the full article Shell Scales Back 2012 Arctic Drilling Goals by visiting the National Geographic website.