Shell concludes Arctic drilling for year
BY DAN JOLING Associated Press
Thursday, November 01, 2012
11/01/12 at 3:22 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Shell Oil's flotilla of Arctic Ocean vessels is heading for warmer waters.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced that it concluded exploratory drilling on Wednesday, its mandatory cutoff date before winter. It completed preliminary drilling at one well at the Burger-A Prospect 70 miles offshore in the Chukchi Sea and one at the Sivulliq Prospect 18 miles offshore in the Beaufort Sea.
"We're looking forward to revisiting these wells as soon as we can next year," Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said by phone from Prudhoe Bay.
The end of drilling by Shell's two drill ships and about 20 support vessels wraps up a tumultuous season that saw the company penetrate the ocean floor for the first time in more than two decades, finally making progress on an Arctic offshore investment of more than $4.5 billion, including $2.1 billion for Chukchi leases in 2008.
Shell began initial drilling but was prohibited from extending the wells into petroleum reservoirs until it could stage a spill response barge near the exploratory wells. But there were problems getting the spill barge certified by the Coast Guard. Another complication was the continued protest by environmental groups that contend oil companies cannot clean up a spill in waters choked by, or covered by, sea ice.
"This year showed to all of us that even one of the world's biggest companies wasn't ready to move forward in the Arctic," said Mike Levine, an attorney for Oceana, from his office in Juneau.
A Shell drill ship pulled its anchor and nearly ran aground at an Aleutian Islands port, Levine said, and the company damaged its new containment dome as it tested its spill response barge off the coast of Washington state.
Less than 24 hours after drilling began Sept. 9 in the Chukchi, Shell moved its drill ship as a precaution because an ice floe 30 miles long and 12 miles wide was heading toward the prospect.
"These problems don't give us confidence that this company is ready to pursue a massive industrial undertaking in one of the remotest places on the planet," Levine said.
The company considers the season a success, Smith said.
Original Print Headline: Shell ends the year's drilling in Arctic