Following Kulluk blunder, Interior investigates Shell Arctic offshore drilling

Shell's drilling rig Kulluk runs around near Kodiak Island prompting federal investigations of offshore drilling in the Arctic. 

Photo: US Coast Guard

Note: Since this story was first published in Jan. 9, 2013, Shell has decided to delay drilling in the Arctic for another year.

In a clear concession that no oil company is a match for Arctic weather, Shell's president Marvin Odum announced on February 27 that Shell will "pause" it's exploratory drilling operations for the year.


Jan. 9 -- Following the grounding of Royal Dutch Shell’s oil rig the Kulluk near Alaska’s Kodiak Island, the Department of Interior has ordered a “high-level” review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling operations in the Arctic.

The Interior Department's announcement follows months of mistakes and dangerous blunders caused during Shell’s ramp up to drill in the Arctic Ocean.

“The review, which is expected to be completed within 60 days, will pay special attention to challenges that Shell encountered in connection with certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger; the deployment of its containment dome; and operational issues associated with its two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk,” a Jan. 8 press release stated.

The DOI stated it will look into the Shell’s offshore oil drilling program in both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska.

Why we should be concerned about Arctic off-shore drilling: 

  • No technology exists that would allow oil companies to recover significant amounts of oil from the ocean after a spill, especially in rough, cold seas.
  • Due to the frigid climate and the sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems, the Arctic is unlikely to recover as quickly as another region might from a major oil spill.
  • Extreme Arctic weather and the remote location make the effectiveness of planned safety precautions for Arctic drilling highly unpredictable.

Donate to stop Arctic drilling now!

The Wilderness Society has been actively engaged in making these points to the federal government. Now Shell has proved it themselves within just the first year of their Arctic drilling operations - before full-scale drilling has even begun.

The Department of Interior has stated it recognizes that “the unique challenges posed by the Arctic environment demand an even higher level of scrutiny.”

Until that scrutiny occurs and an appropriate guarantee of safety is reached, The Wilderness Society will remain highly engaged in urging the administration to pull back Shell’s drilling efforts in the Arctic.

Watch a flyover of Shell's out-of-control Kulluk rig. Footage courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

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