Preparation won't mitigate hurdles to Arctic development
Shell Oil pulled out of the Arctic last week after a challenging first season in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. News reports across the nation touted the frustrations of this first attempt to drill there since the 1980s, ranging from stubborn sea ice that stayed longer than expected to delays in the construction and certification of a spill containment barge essential for drilling deep enough to hit hydrocarbons. As the ships and drill rigs left Oct. 31, two 1,500-foot exploratory wells, one in each sea, had been dug, though neither could be dug deep enough to touch gas, since the barge was delayed.
That’s a far cry from the five wells Shell had planned to dig this season. The company said the work it did complete will set the stage for a successful 2013 drilling season, and while one can assume some of the problems, like the containment barge, will be fixed, others, like the weather, are likely to continue to be a problem for any company intent on increasing its Arctic presence.