You are here

Shell puts Arctic drilling on ice

28th February 2013

Shell pauses 2013 exploration plan for Arctic drilling following Kulluk oil rig accident

Shell puts Arctic drilling on ice
The Kulluk and the second drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, will now be towed to locations in Asia for maintenance and repairs

Royal Dutch Shell will pause its 2013 exploration plans for drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas,  the oil giant announced on Wednesday, as part of plans to prepare equipment and resume activities 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.”

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.

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 while towed south for repairs at a shipyard in Washington State ahead of the 2013 drilling season.

A powerful 70-knot winter storm damaged towing equipment and engines on the primary tug failed, as relief vessels proved unable to maintain control of the drifting rig. The incident raised questions regarding the company’s plans to open the resource rich region for drilling.

Alaska still holds “high potential” for Shell over the long term and the company plans to drill there again in the future, the company said in a press release. If exploration is successful, however, resources would take years to develop.

The Kulluk and the second drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, will now be towed to locations in Asia for maintenance and repairs.