Shell halts Arctic drilling

2012-09-11 08:26
Royal Dutch Shell has halted its drilling in the Arctic one day after the work began because sea ice is moving toward the company's drill ship. (Dave Martin, AP)

Royal Dutch Shell has halted its drilling in the Arctic one day after the work began because sea ice is moving toward the company's drill ship. (Dave Martin, AP)

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Anchorage - Royal Dutch Shell has halted its drilling in the Arctic one day after the work began because sea ice is moving toward the company's drill ship off Alaska, putting what the company has called a historic move on temporary hold.

Drilling was stopped as a "precautionary measure", and drilling will resume when the ice, which measures about 48km by 19km, has moved on, said Shell Alaska spokesperson Curtis Smith. The delay could be a couple of days or more, Smith said.

Sunday's start of Arctic Ocean drilling came after years of lobbying by Shell and plenty of bitter opposition from environmental groups, which say oil companies have not shown they can clean up an oil spill in ice-choked water.

"It's the first time a drill bit has touched the sea floor in the US Chukchi Sea in more than two decades," Shell Alaska vice president Pete Slaiby said in a prepared statement on Sunday.

The oil giant was given permission in August to begin preliminary work on an exploratory well. The company is authorised to drill pilot holes that do not descend into oil reservoirs.

Environmental lawsuits

Shell's Burger Prospect is 112km off the northwest coast of Alaska.

Shell officials began monitoring the vast piece of ice Sunday when it was 168km away, Smith said. The decision to halt drilling was made on Sunday. At 12:00 on Monday, the drill ship was still detaching from anchors. Smith said he did not know how far away the ice was at that time.

Shell has spent upward of $4.5bn for Arctic Ocean drilling but had been thwarted by environmental lawsuits, regulatory requirements and short open-water drilling seasons.

Environmental groups that a spill of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 would be catastrophic in a region hammered by climate warming and home to endangered or threatened marine mammals such as bowhead whales, polar bear and walrus.
Read more on:    royal dutch shell  |  environment

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