Shell halt Arctic drilling
on 11/09/2012 07:24:45
Drilling was stopped as a "precautionary measure" and will resume when the ice, which measures about 30 by 12 miles, has moved on, Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said. The delay could be a couple of days or more, Mr 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.
The oil giant was given permission last month to begin preliminary work on an exploratory well. The company's oil spill response barge has not been certified, but Shell is authorized to drill pilot holes that do not descend into oil reservoirs.
Shell's Burger Prospect is 70 miles off the north-west coast of Alaska.
Shell chiefs began monitoring the vast piece of ice on Sunday when it was 105 miles away, Mr Smith said, and the decision to halt drilling was made. At noon yesterday, the drill ship was still detaching from eight massive anchors.Mr Smith said he did not know how far away the ice was at that time. The ice was moving at .5 knots, or .575mph.
"We're using satellite images, we're using radar images, we're also using on-site reconnaissance to watch this ice so there are no surprises," Mr Smith said.
"Part of working in ice is having the ability to temporarily relocate. You never want to stop operations when your crews and your equipment are working smoothly, but this is what it means to work safely in the Arctic."
Shell has spent more than £2.8bn (€3.5bn) 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.