Quantcast
Energy

Shell Abandons Arctic Drilling Following 'Disappointing' Results

After finding little oil and natural gas, Royal Dutch Shell announced today it would end its controversial Arctic drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's coast "for the foreseeable future." Shell said the amount of oil and gas found in the Burger J well is "not sufficient to warrant further exploration."

The well will be sealed and abandoned in accordance with U.S. regulations, the company said. The oil giant is also making efforts to safely demobilize people and equipment from the Chukchi Sea.

"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 U.S.," said Marvin Odum, the director of Shell Upstream Americas. "However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin."

Shell said its decision to cease drilling was also based on the "high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska."

According to the Associated Press, Shell spent more than $7 billion on Arctic offshore exploration. The company said it expects to lose approximately $4.1 billion as a result of ceasing operations.

There are a number of reasons why the search for Arctic oil is not worth the risk. Oil prices have been sinking around the globe at less than $50 a barrel. Even former BP boss Lord Browne said Arctic drilling was not a supporter due to cost, safety and environmental risks.

Of course, there are many planetary reasons why we must never drill our pristine and treasured Arctic, including its strain on wildlife, carbon pollution, spills, rising sea levels and much more. Shell's decision to stop explorations in the Arctic was hailed by environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, who has actively protested the risky operations.

“This is a victory for everyone who has stood up for the Arctic," said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. "Whether they took to kayaks or canoes, rappelled from bridges, or spread the news in their own communities, millions of people around the world have taken action against Arctic drilling. Today they have made history."

Leonard also called on President Obama to cease any future drilling and declaring the U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits to oil companies.

"While this is a victory for everyone who hoped to avoid a catastrophic spill—or catastrophic climate change—from Shell’s plans, it’s also proof positive that drilling in the Arctic is too costly to be effective and a bad bet for other energy companies," she noted. "It’s time to start making the shift to renewable energy instead of pursuing extreme fossil fuels."

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo echoed similar sentiments.

“It’s time to make the Arctic ocean off limits to all oil companies," Naidoo said. "This may be the best chance we get to create permanent protection for the Arctic and make the switch to renewable energy instead. If we are serious about dealing with climate change we will need to completely change our current way of thinking. Drilling in the melting Arctic is not compatible with this shift."

“Greenpeace’s campaign to save the Arctic will continue with passion and increased strength. We are campaigning for a protected sanctuary in international waters around the North Pole, and we hope that vision is one step closer after today,” Naidoo said.

Other environmentalists have also spoken out. “Those working to protect the communities and wildlife throughout America's Arctic can rest a bit easier tonight knowing that the immediate threat of disastrous offshore oil spills has diminished," Brad Ack, the senior vice president for oceans at the World Wildlife Fund said. "The Arctic Ocean once again proved to be the challenging and unpredictable environment we know it to be."

“We must stop expending resources and time seeking to exploit fossil fuels from the most hostile and remote places on the planet and risking irreversible environmental damage," he added. "We need to redirect that energy to accelerate our nation’s transition to a future powered by clean, renewable energy.”

"Today’s announcement marks a pivotal moment for the people and wildlife of the Arctic, and our climate," said Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Marissa Knodel. "As one of the largest corporations to pursue Arctic oil and gas, Shell’s retreat from a $7 billion gamble sends an important message: Arctic drilling is too dangerous and too expensive and should be stopped altogether.

"Arctic oil and gas is unburnable in our carbon-constrained world and must be kept in the ground. With this announcement, President Obama’s climate legacy has been given a reprieve. He should seize this opportunity to revoke Shell’s drilling permit and cancel all future leases in the Arctic Ocean."

Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press, "Polar bears, Alaska's Arctic and our climate just caught a huge break. Here's hoping Shell leaves the Arctic forever."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Arctic Reality: If We Want to Limit Global Warming We Cannot Drill for Oil in the Chukchi Sea

Hundreds Rally in Alaska to Tell Obama ‘Climate Leaders Don’t Drill the Arctic’

Arctic Drilling: A Giant Gamble for the Planet and Shell’s Bottom Line

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
iStock

How Trump Could Undermine the U.S. Solar Boom

By Llewelyn Hughes and Jonas Meckling

Tumbling prices for solar energy have helped stoke demand among U.S. homeowners, businesses and utilities for electricity powered by the sun. But that could soon change.

President Donald Trump—whose proposed 2018 budget would slash support for alternative energy—may get a new opportunity to undermine the solar power market by imposing duties that could increase the cost of solar power high enough to choke off the industry's growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Richard Branson's Necker Island was hit by two hurricanes in two weeks. Richard Branson/Instagram

Richard Branson to Donald Trump: The Whole World Knows Climate Change is Real

Virgin Group founder and longtime environmentalist Richard Branson, who faced two damaging hurricanes in a row from his home in the British Virgin Islands, called out President Donald Trump's refusal to accept the science of climate change.

"Look, you can never be 100 percent sure about links," the British billionaire said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day" when asked about the correlation between global warming and the recent string of major hurricanes to hit the Carribean and the United States.

Keep reading... Show less
Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois. Prison ecology advocates are celebrating the launch of a new prisons layer to the EPA's environmental justice mapping tool, but still hope the EPA will expand inspection and enforcement activities related to prisons. Rw2 / Wikipedia

EPA Adds Prison Locations to Its Environmental Justice Mapping Tool

By Zoe Loftus-Farren

As an environmental reporter, it's not every day that I get to communicate good news—the state of our environment often feels pretty bleak. But today, at least, there is a victory to celebrate: Thanks to the persistence of a small group of prison ecology advocates, the support of their allies, and the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prisoners rights and environmental justice advocates have a new tool to add to their activist arsenal.

This summer, the EPA added a "prisons layer" to its Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool. Known as EJSCREEN for short, the tool can be used by the public to assess possible exposure to pollutants that might be present in the environment (i.e., land, air and water) where they live or work.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Kevin Vallely

'Rowing the Northwest Passage' Chronicles An Expedition Through the Changing North

By Kevin Vallely

In 2013 four adventurers set out on an 80-day rowboat mission through the Arctic's rapidly melting Northwest Passage. Their journey brought them face to face with the changing seas in a world of climate change. In this excerpt from adventurer Kevin Vallely's new book about the expedition, Rowing the Northwest Passage (Greystone Books), we also see how climate change has affected some of the people the team met along their journey:

An elderly woman walks toward us from the road. Tuktoyaktuk, in the Northwest Territories, is a sizable town by Arctic standards, with a full-time population of 954, but it's small enough that the bulk of the town likely knows we're here. The woman is smiling when she reaches us.

"I saw you coming in," she says. "Where you guys come from?" "We're from Vancouver," I say, my mouth still half full of food. "We started our trip in Inuvik nine days ago." Her name is Eileen Jacobsen and she's an Elder in town. She and her husband, Billy, run a sightseeing business. "You should come up to the house in the morning and have some coffee," she tells us.

Our night's sleep in the Arctic Joule is fitful; our overindulgence runs through all of us like a thunderstorm. By seven in the morning, even with both hatches open, lighting a match in the cabin would blow us out like dirt from that Siberian crater. The roar of the Jetboil pulls me out. Frank's already up, down jacket on, preparing coffee. "You like a cup?"

It's still too early to drop by Eileen Jacobsen's house, so we walk into town on the dusty main road, our ears assaulted by a cacophony of barking dogs. Dirt is the surface of choice for roads and runways in Arctic communities, as any inflexible surface like concrete would be shredded by the annual freeze–thaw cycle. Most of the town runs the length of a thin finger of land, with the ocean on one side and a protected bay on the other. About halfway down the peninsula, a cluster of wooden crosses rests in a high grass clearing, facing west. We heard about this graveyard in Inuvik. Because of melting permafrost and wave action, it's eroding into the sea, and community members have lined the shore with large rocks to forestall its demise. This entire peninsula will face this threat in the coming years. There's not much land here to hold back a hungry ocean.

We notice an elderly man in a blue winter jacket staring at us a short distance away. He's sitting outside a small wooden house and smiles as we approach. "You guys must be the rowers," he says. "Too windy to be out rowing." His jacket hood is pulled tight over his ball cap and he dons a pair of wraparound shades with yellow lenses that would better suit a racing cyclist than a village Elder. His name is Fred Wolki, and he's lived in Tuk for the last fifty years. "I grew up on my father's boat until they sent me to school in 1944, then I came here."

His father, Jim Wolki, is a well-known fox trapper who transported his pelts from Banks Island to Herschel Island aboard his ship the North Star of Herschel Island. Interestingly, we had the Arctic Joule moored right beside the North Star at the Vancouver Maritime Museum before we left. Built in San Francisco in 1935, the North Star plied the waters of the Beaufort Sea for over thirty years, her presence in Arctic waters playing an important role in bolstering Canadian Arctic sovereignty through the Cold War.

"We're curious if things have changed much here since you were a boy," Frank says.

"Well … it's getting warmer now," Fred says, shaking his head. He gestures out to the water speaking slowly and pausing for long moments between thoughts. "Right up to the 1960s … there was old ice along the coast … The ice barely moved … It was grounded along the coastline." He looks out over the shoreline, moving his arm back and forth. "They started to fade away slowly in the 1960s … icebergs … They were huge, like big islands … They were so high, like the land at the dew Line station … over there." He points to the radar dome of the long decommissioned Distant Early Warning Line station that sits on a rise of land just east of us. "It's been twenty years since we've seen one in Tuk." There's no sentimentality or anger in Fred's voice; he's just telling us his story. "It's getting warmer now … Global warming is starting to take its toll … All the permafrost is starting to melt … Water is starting to eat away our land."

I listen to his words, amazed. There's no agenda here, no vested interest, no job creation or moneymaking—just an elderly man bearing witness to his changing world.

Excerpted from Rowing the Northwest Passage: Adventure, Fear, and Awe in a Rising Sea by Kevin Vallely, published September 2017 by Greystone Books. Condensed and reproduced with permission from the publisher.

Sponsored
www.youtube.com

Hundreds Dead in Mexico After Earthquake Strikes on Anniversary of Devastating 1985 Quake

In Mexico, a massive 7.1-magnitude quake struck 100 miles southeast of Mexico City Tuesday, collapsing dozens of buildings around the capital city and trapping schoolchildren, workers and residents beneath the rubble.

At least 217 people are dead, and hundreds more are missing. Among the dead are least 21 students at a primary school in Mexico City and 15 worshipers who died during a Catholic mass when the earthquake triggered an eruption at a volcano southeast of the city.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Fourth St. sign under water in San Francisco. Scott Schiller/Flickr

San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City to Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Costs of Climate Change

San Francisco and Oakland are suing Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell—the five biggest investor-owned fossil fuel producers in the world—over the costs of climate change.

The two Californian cities join the counties of Marin, San Mateo and San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach that have taken similar legal action in recent months, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
www.youtube.com

Climate Alliance States Show Us What Real Leadership Looks Like

By Luis Martinez and Kit Kennedy

In a forceful show of climate leadership, Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jerry Brown (CA), and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Secretary of State John Kerry came together in New York City Wednesday as part of Climate Week to celebrate the progress and growth of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris agreement climate goal. The coalition was founded by Cuomo, Brown and Inslee after President Trump announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from Paris.

President Trump may prefer to pretend that climate change isn't real—Gov. Cuomo quipped that the Trump administration is in "the State of Denial"—but these leaders detailed the extraordinary strides they're making, in the absence of White House leadership, to slash greenhouse gas emissions and grow their economies at the same time. For New Yorkers, it's exciting to see Cuomo's leadership on clean energy and climate continue to accelerate, from setting strong renewable energy goals, to a successful push with other Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states to further slash carbon emissions, to banning fracking.

Keep reading... Show less
www.facebook.com

Hurricane Maria Devastates Puerto Rico

By Andy Rowell

As new Hurricane Maria brings devastation to Puerto Rico, the governor of the island, Ricardo Rossello, has asked Donald Trump to declare the U.S. territory a disaster zone.

He has said that Maria could be the most damaging hurricane to hit the country in more than 100 years.

With maximum recorded wind speeds of 140 mph and rainfall of up to 25 inches or even higher, Mike Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist from the U.S. National Hurricane Center has also warned locals of flash-flooding and "punishing" rainfall. He added that the storm would remain "very dangerous" for the next couple of days.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox