In a clear concession that no oil company is a match for Arctic weather, the company's president Marvin Odum announced on Feb. 27 that Shell will "pause" it's exploratory drilling operations for the year.
Shell was plagued by accidents and errors throughout the 2012 drilling season, before its Kulluk drill rig ran aground on New Year’s Eve. Its Noble Discoverer drill ship is the subject of a criminal investigation over safety and pollution-related violations. Both pieces of drilling equipment now require repairs, the extent of which remains unknown.
Explore an interactive timeline of Shell's drilling mishaps in the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean drilling has always been among the riskiest and most costly oil drilling in the world. The fact is there is no technology for cleaning up oil spills in Arctic waters and accidents are bound to happen given extreme Arctic weather conditions. Shell has already proven this with their record of mishaps.
“This comes as no surprise,” said Lois Epstein, an Alaska-licensed engineer and Arctic Program Director for The Wilderness Society. “Shell has had numerous, serious problems in getting to and from the Arctic as well as problems operating in the Arctic. Shell’s managers have not been straight with the American public, and possibly even with its own investors, on how difficult its Arctic Ocean operations have been this past year.”
Despite the risks, and concerns raised by The Wilderness Society and a coalition of conservation groups, the administration gave the go-ahead to Shell to begin exploratory drilling in 2012.
Shell then came under investigation with the grounding of the Kulluk oil rig. An investigation led by the Coast Guard and now the U.S. Department of Justice is currently underway.
View footage of one of Shell's 2012 accidents: The grounding of the Kulluk oil barge