Shell Cancels Arctic Oil Drilling

Feb 28, 2013

Shell Oil has put Arctic drilling on hold. The company announced Wednesday that it will not attempt to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean this year. The announcement comes after a year of accidents and setbacks for Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts. KUOW’s John Ryan reports from Seattle.

Shell's Kulluk oil rig, with three tugboats and an escort ship, on its way from Kodiak Island to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Credit Photo by Sara Francis / US Coast Guard

Shell’s press release called the move a one-year “pause” in the company’s program to explore for oil off the north coast of Alaska. Shell has already spent nearly $5 billion on the effort.

Environmental groups welcomed the announcement. They said it offered a chance for President Obama to back up his rhetoric on tackling climate change by canceling Arctic oil drilling altogether. Shell had planned to drill for oil last year but suffered a series of mishaps. They culminated in a tugboat losing power during a winter storm in the Gulf of Alaska.

The oil rig it was towing to Seattle for maintenance ran aground on New Year’s Eve. The Interior Department and the Justice Department are investigating that accident and earlier ones in both Alaska and Puget Sound.

The oil rig that ran aground and suffered unspecified damages is currently under tow to a port in the Aleutian Islands. This time, Shell’s using three tugs, instead of one, to avoid another costly grounding.

Shell plans to send both of its disabled Arctic drill rigs to drydocks in Asia for major repairs.

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