Shell suspends Arctic drilling for remainder of year


A Greenpeace activist covers the logo of the Shell oil company to protest on May 10, 2012 against the heading of the an icebreaker for Shell's Arctic oil drilling project in the north of Alaska.


Michal Cizek

Royal Dutch Shell announced Wednesday that it is putting Arctic drilling on hold for the remainder of the year in order to address safety issues, reported BBC News.

"We've made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way," Shell president Marvin Odum said in a statement cited by The Guardian. "Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people."

The decision was "widely expected" given the number of problems at the company's two Arctic wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, said BBC News

Safety concerns were such that they prompted a probe from the US Department of Justice at one Shell oil rig, said BBC, further complicating the company's costly efforts to wrest resources from the region.

The Guardian claimed Shell spent a total of five billion on the two wells in the last eight years; BBC put the figure closer to four and a half. 

Having made the investment, Shell is not about to give up. Odum's statement said the Arctic freeze is only temporary and does not signal any long-term change in plan, according to the Guardian

But BBC suggested that Shell's move might have less to do with safety per se and more to do with their two main drilling rigs being repaired in East Asia, a fact that presumably delays work. 

Whatever the reason, conservationists opposed to Shell's activities in the region welcomed the pause. 

"This is the first good decision we've seen from Shell," Mike le Vine of the Oceana activist group told BBC, describing it as a window of opportunity for the government agencies to, as he said, "reassess the way decisions are made about our ocean resources and to reconsider the commitment to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean."