US Gives Shell Final Nod To Drill For Oil In Arctic


WASHINGTON, Aug 17 (Reuters) - The Obama administration granted Royal Dutch Shell final clearance on Monday to resume drilling for oil and gas in the environmentally fragile Arctic Ocean for the first time since 2012, a move green groups vowed to fight.

The U.S. Department of the Interior permit allows Shell to drill in the oil-rich Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. Shell interrupted its drilling program in the region in 2012 after suffering a series of mishaps, including losing control of an enormous rig, from which the Coast Guard had to rescue 18 workers.

Harsh conditions in the Chukchi have discouraged other oil companies from drilling there.

The go-ahead for Shell comes after repairs were completed to the Fennica, an icebreaker the company leases that carries emergency well-plugging equipment. The ship had suffered a gash in its hull after hitting uncharted shoals off southern Alaska.

Damage to the Fennica had stalled Shell's program, which the Interior Department had previously issued a permit for.

Shell obtained the leases in the Chukchi during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Since then it has spent about $7 billion on exploration in the Arctic, though oil production is at least a decade away.

The Arctic is home to what the U.S. government estimates is 20 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

Shell's determination to drill there has spawned waves of protests and funding drives by environmentalists who want to protect whales, walruses and polar bears in a vulnerable region that scientists say is changing rapidly due to global warming.

Late last month, 13 Greenpeace activists hanging from a bridge in Oregon temporarily blocked the freshly repaired Fennica from reaching the Pacific Ocean to return to Alaska.

President Barack Obama "must change the course on Arctic drilling set eight years ago by former President George W. Bush and not perpetuate it," said Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club, the country's oldest environmental group.

The club urged Obama to cancel sales of oil-zone leases scheduled for 2016 and 2017 and to remove the possibility of drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Later this month, Obama will visit Alaska to speak at a conference on the Arctic and tour areas threatened by climate change.

Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said the company "looks forward to evaluating what could potentially become a national energy resource base."

Shell is not releasing a timetable for its drilling program.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Sandra Maler; and Peter Galloway)

Copyright 2016 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.


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mark | Aug. 18, 2015
So, this ... president of yours will allow drilling in the Arctic and he calls our oilsands (dirty oil) what a double standard, I guess it suits his purpose!!!!!

Gerry Samms | Aug. 18, 2015
Hi; I am by no means an expert on the subject however I was involved with Canmar and Dome Petroleum when they were actively drilling in the Arctic in the 80s and 90s... we drilled , carried out supply boat work and loads of experimental work there with no harm to the environment and to people. Instead of reinventing the wheel it would do Shell and the activists a world of good to review documents from that era.... Esso , Exon , Canmar Beaudrill and others were all involved ... Done properly, there is absolutely no reason for Shelll not to drill.. They need to to not act as cowboys or first time explorers in the arctic. The fate of the KULLUCK should have been lesson number one. Beaudrill had two 15K HP tugs dedicated to towing and supply for the Kulluck, Shell decided to tow it with a well ice seasoned mariner for Louisana on board a new unproven tug, AIVIK. Read the history fellas , there is loads of good information there for you.

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