Business, Economics and Jobs

Shell suspends Arctic drilling for 2013


Icebergs float off the coast of Upernavik, Greenland, July 18, 2012. Every year, about 15,000 icebergs detach from the land and can float up to 40 degrees north and/or south, especially during summer months. The biggest icebergs can reach a surface of more than 11,550 square miles. In cold waters, icebergs can last about four years, but if the temperature rises above 41 degrees Fahrenheit, they can melt in a few days.


Stefano De Luigi/VII

Royal Dutch Shell announced today that it will not drill in the Arctic Ocean this year. Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum said the decision to suspend drilling in 2013 is just a "pause," the Washington Post reported. Shell has spent $5 billion and eight years to secure permits to drill two exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. 

But the "pause" comes after a series of embarrassing incidents that called Shell's ethics into question. 

“Shell’s managers have not been straight with the American public, and possibly even with its own investors, on how difficult its Arctic Ocean operations have been this past year," Lois N. Epstein, Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society and a member of the Interior Department panel reviewing Shell’s operations, told the New York Times

More from GlobalPost: The Arctic Melt 

The company’s two drill ships suffered serious accidents last fall and winter  in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the Times reported, and are still undergoing repair.

Environmental groups say that not enough is known about how the drilling will affect the endangered whales, polar bears, walrus and ice seals in the Arctic. The delicate ecosystem in the Arctic is already dealing with the effects of climate change, and environmental groups say that oil companies have not yet proven that they are capable of cleaning up any potential oil spills in ice-laden waters, the Associated Press reported

"Given Shell's performance over the past year, their decision to pause drilling for 2013 is one of the smartest moves they've made regarding Arctic operations," Andrew Hartsig, Arctic program director of the Ocean Conservancy,  told the Guardian.