Shell Decides to Pause Arctic Drilling in 2013

Shell Decides to Pause Arctic Drilling in 2013 (2)

Royal Dutch Shell plc announced it will pause its exploration drilling  for 2013 in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to prepare equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage.

 “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.”

“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,” said the company in a press release.

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.

“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,” said Odum. “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

In response to Shell’s announcement Earthjustice President, Trip Van Noppen, said:

Shell did the only thing it could do—suspend Arctic drilling and halt operations for oil exploration this summer. Whether it was the Kulluk’s grounding, the problems both drilling operations had with Arctic weather and ice, or 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.

“The administration should take the time it needs to perform a thorough assessment of Shell’s operations last summer, rather than a rushed review that fails to address the systemic failures—both of the industry and the Department of the Interior. The Obama administration should now suspend all permitting and further activities related to Arctic drilling in America’s waters until it completes a thorough review and determines a more responsible approach for the Arctic Ocean.”

Troubled rigs

Royal Dutch Shell recently decided to tow two of its troubled drilling vessels from Alaska to Asia for repairs. The oil giant said it would move the Kulluk conical drilling unit and the Noble Discoverer drillship to an Asian shipyard. The Kulluk, which went aground off Alaska in December after breaking free from tugboats leading it to Seattle for maintenance, and the Noble Discoverer which nearly grounded in Dutch Harbor in July last year, will be dry-towed to Asia.

The Coast Guard last week announced it had discovered 16 safety violation on the Noble Discoverer. One of the violations handed out by the Coast Guard against the Discoverer states that “current propulsion arrangement does not result in sufficient speed at sea to safely maneuver in all expected conditions without tow assistance.”

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Offshore Energy Today Staff,  February 28, 2013

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