Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shell Suspends 2014 Offshore Drilling Plans in Arctic

One of Shell's drill ships, the Kulluk, ran aground last year. (Credit: AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard) Click to enlarge.
Shell Oil announced Thursday that it is suspending efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean in 2014.  The announcement came as the company’s new CEO Ben van Beurden addressed investors to confirm that the company’s fourth-quarter profits had dropped by 71 percent to $2.1 billion.

Shell’s decision to suspend its Arctic offshore operations comes after a federal appeals court ruled last week that the U.S. government had not properly assessed the risks of drilling in the Arctic before it sold leases for exploration drilling back in 2008.  The environmental impacts considered were for the extraction of one billion barrels of oil — a number which the court ruled was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Shell’s Arctic ambitions have, so far, been thwarted at every turn.  The company also suspended drilling off Alaska altogether in 2013, after a disastrous first year in 2012.  Late permits, dangerous ice conditions and embarrassing equipment failures, all forced Shell out of the Arctic before a single well had been completed.  Even as the company was moving equipment to warmer waters, one of its drill ships, the Kulluk, ran aground.  Shell also had to pay $1.1 million in fines for air quality violations.

To date, Shell has invested well over $5 billion in its Arctic drilling projects and spent six years fighting legal challenges from environmental groups worried about the fragile Arctic ecosystem, as well as the climate consequences of burning what Shell has referred to as its “multibillion barrel prize.”

Shell Suspends 2014 Offshore Drilling Plans in Arctic

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