The Blog Aquatic » royal dutch shell http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Why Now is Not the Time for a New Offshore Lease Sale in the Chukchi Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/30/why-now-is-not-the-time-for-a-new-offshore-lease-sale-in-the-chukchi-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/30/why-now-is-not-the-time-for-a-new-offshore-lease-sale-in-the-chukchi-sea/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 18:38:22 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6889

Photo: Leigh Elliot / Photo Contest 2011

Just before the government shutdown brought federal agencies to a standstill at the beginning of October, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a “call for information” for a potential new oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of northwest Alaska. A new Chukchi Sea lease sale would allow oil and gas companies to buy additional oil leases in one of the most remote and challenging environments on the planet. The response to the call for information is easy: now is not the time to sell new oil and gas lease sales in the Chukchi Sea.

The last oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea was in 2008. Since that time, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico reminded the world that when things go wrong, offshore drilling can have catastrophic consequences for fish and wildlife, marine and coastal environments, and residents of affected coastal communities. The Deepwater Horizon disaster also triggered new safety and environmental protection requirements for oil and gas companies that wish to drill in Arctic waters.

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Royal Dutch Shell tried its hand at drilling in the Arctic and experienced a whole series of disasters. Among other things, a massive ice floe blocked access to one drilling site for about two weeks, the company’s drilling vessels violated their air emission permits, the drillship Discoverer suffered propulsion problems and had to be towed to port, and the drilling unit Kulluk ran aground off Kodiak Island and had to be salvaged by outside consultants. For all that, Shell failed to complete a single Arctic well.

As Shell’s 2012 drilling campaign unraveled, other oil and gas companies backed away from plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Statoil and ConocoPhillips in particular both announced that they would not consider drilling in the Chukchi Sea until 2015 at the earliest. Shell itself is still not sure when it will make another attempt to drill. In fact, its outgoing CEO recently acknowledged that Shell could abandon its Arctic leases if they prove too risky and expensive.

Shell’s 2012 drilling season also forced government regulators to acknowledge that the existing safeguards are not sufficient. Earlier this year, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a special report that identified significant shortcomings in Shell’s Arctic drilling effort and imposed new requirements on Shell. DOI also recognized the need for new, region-specific rules to govern offshore drilling off the coast of Alaska. The agency is working to prepare those rules, but they will not be finalized for many months. The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a formal marine casualty investigation related to the grounding of the drillship Kulluk. Findings of that investigation could trigger regulatory or policy changes related to the marine transport aspects of oil exploration in the Arctic.

Both the oil and gas companies and federal regulators are still trying to determine whether and how to proceed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Shell’s failure-plagued Arctic campaign. Given the great uncertainty surrounding oil and gas operations in the Arctic Ocean at this time, there is simply no reason for BOEM to hold a new oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea.

Instead of trying to sell new offshore leases in a remote and risky offshore environment, BOEM should concentrate its resources on improving the rules that govern offshore drilling in Arctic waters. If BOEM continues to consider a new Chukchi Sea lease sale in 2016, it should use this “call for information” as an opportunity to identify and exclude from the lease sale areas that are especially important for Arctic wildlife and subsistence users. Join us in telling the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to call a halt to this potentially damaging act.

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Don’t Let Shell Drill in the Arctic Based on Shortcuts and Excuses http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/21/dont-let-shell-drill-in-the-arctic-based-on-shortcuts-and-excuses/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/21/dont-let-shell-drill-in-the-arctic-based-on-shortcuts-and-excuses/#comments Sat, 21 Jul 2012 13:36:40 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1846

Reckless Arctic drilling isn’t worth the risk. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service.

In its quest to drill exploratory oil wells in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell made a lot of promises to government regulators about its ability to run a safe and clean drilling operation in the challenging Arctic environment. But as the drilling season approaches, Shell is already experiencing setbacks and backtracking on its commitments.

In the face of these broken promises, stand with us against Shell’s reckless plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

First, Shell is changing its story about its capacity to clean up spilled oil in the Arctic. Portions of Shell’s Arctic oil spill response plans are based the unrealistic assumption that Shell would be able to clean up 90 percent of the oil released in a worst case spill. Actual recovery rates—even in optimum conditions—rarely exceed 20 percent. When confronted with questions about its spill plan, Shell back-pedaled, claiming that it didn’t mean that it would actually be able to clean up 90 percent of the spilled oil, only that it would be able to “encounter” 90 percent of the spilled oil.

Second, Shell is having problems obtaining Coast Guard certification for one of its oil spill response vessels. Because of the harsh conditions of the Arctic, the Coast Guard requires Shell’s vessel to withstand the conditions and forces generated by a severe storm that might happen once every 100 years. Shell’s vessel failed to meet that stringent standard. In the face of this setback, Shell suggested a shortcut: it asked the Coast Guard to use a less rigorous certification standard.

Third, Shell recently admitted that it won’t be able to meet the air emissions standards established in Clean Air Act permits granted by the EPA. Instead of addressing the issue at an earlier stage, Shell waited and hoped for the best. When tests showed that emissions from Shell’s drillship and oil spill response vessel would exceed the air pollution limits set by the permits, Shell once again tried for an easy way out, requesting that EPA grant a waiver to allow the vessels to emit more pollutants.

And then there’s the incident in Dutch Harbor… This past Saturday, Shell’s 500 foot drillship—the Noble Discoverer—dragged anchor and nearly ran aground (or did in fact run aground, depending on who you ask) near Dutch Harbor in Alaska. Photos show the Discoverer very close to the shoreline. Fortunately, tugs were able to pull the drillship back to deeper waters. If Shell was not able to control its drillship in the relatively protected waters of Unalaska Bay, how will it fare in the more challenging environment of the Chukchi Sea?

Stand with us to tell the government it can’t accept Shell’s excuses and shortcuts, and it shouldn’t allow Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

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