Shell stops drilling off Alaskan coast after ‘disappointing’ find

30 Sep 2015

Shell Oil has taken the surprising decision to abandon its activities off the coast of Alaska after the ‘Burger J’ well yielded “disappointing” findings. Environmentalists are, understandably, delighted.

Shell’s decision to walk away from Alaskan offshore drilling for now came as a bit of a surprise, with the company pointing to both poor yields and troubling federal laws as the main reasons behind the decision.

However, Greenpeace has claimed this as a victory for anti-drilling activists everywhere.

“From activists who scaled Shell’s rig in April or who stopped one of Shell’s ships this July, to the millions of people all over the world who signed petitions, paraded with polar bears, shared stories and helped organise for real environmental justice, this is YOUR victory. Thank you,” the organisation said in a blog post.

Shell drilling stops, for now

Yet the oil company certainly isn’t saying activists played any role in its the reasoning behind its shift away from the basin in the Chukchi Sea.

“The Shell Alaska team has operated safely and exceptionally well in every aspect of this year’s exploration program,” said Marvin Odum, a director at the company.

“Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the US. However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin.”

Shell has spent more than US$7bn hunting for oil off Alaska, with up to US$4.1bn exposed to potential losses.

Some people think Shell might walk away from Alaska entirely, with a game of politicking between business reasons and activist pressure behind any future move.

“It is possible that Shell might almost be relieved as they can stop exploration for a legitimate operational reason, rather than being seen to bow to environmental pressure,” Stuart Elliott from energy information group Platts told the BBC.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic