Dutch Royal Shell to End Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling this Year

After worldwide protests, embarrassing accidents and lengthy regulatory delays, Royal Dutch Shell has made an announcement that it is ending its highly controversial Arctic offshore oil drilling program this year. The statement was made following the company’s destruction of a containment dome intended to prevent an oil spill. It was one the most recent incidents in a set of delays and challenges that the oil giant encountered in its $4 billion oil exploration plan in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

In spite of its huge oil investment in the region, the company was still not able to solve the logistical and natural challenges of operating safely in severe Arctic conditions, said WWF’s Senior Program Officer for Arctic Oil and Gas Policy Ms. Layla Hughes in a statement to the press. Although wildlife and local communities may be protected from spills for another year, there is still concern that offshore oil exploration in the future cannot be performed without endangering those communities, added Hughes.

Native and environmental groups have been arguing that the hazardous conditions of the Arctic, such as super storms, remoteness and ice chunks, make it very risky for offshore oil drilling. But the Obama Administration has given its full approval to Shell’s plans.

According to the company, it is still thinking of drilling top holes in the floor of the Arctic Sea to prepare for drilling that will hopefully occur in 2013. Shell tried to put a positive spin on its announcement by saying that significant development has been made.

In its online statement, Shell said that they will not perform any operation until they are sure that they are fully ready to safely do it.

However, Greenpeace, which has always been fighting against Arctic oil drilling, coined Shell’s disaster as “Waterloo.” Their claim: that history will present the disastrous miscalculation made by the company in the area and its disregard for the top scientists of the world and almost two million people globally who have joined the Save the Arctic campaign at its own risk. The group further added that the sensitive Arctic environment must be inaccessible to industrial exploitation.

At present, the Arctic is going through many changes because of climate change. 2012 was marked as a record-low of sea ice extent, with several scientists forecasting that the sea ice may totally disappear for a certain period in the summer by the close of the decade, an occurence which can have huge effects on world weather systems while worsening climate change.