Ocean Currents » Shell http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:47:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Shell Spills 88,000 Gallons of Oil in Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/13/shell-spills-88000-gallons-of-oil-in-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/13/shell-spills-88000-gallons-of-oil-in-gulf/#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 01:16:06 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12067

Today, the Coast Guard reported that Shell’s Brutus oil platform, about 90 miles off the coast of Louisiana, has spilled more than 80,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This is a bad week for Shell—just Monday, Shell gave up most of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Although it is too early to know the extent of environmental damage from the Shell spill, we do know that the Gulf of Mexico is still damaged from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster six years ago.

Thankfully, the leak has been secured, and clean-up efforts are underway, as a result of NOAA and the Coast Guard’s immediate response. There are 52,000 boreholes drilled into the Gulfseafloor, the result of a century-old search for oil and gas. Much of the time, offshore oil production proceeds relatively safely and without much public interest, but when things go wrong in the Gulf of Mexico, they can really go wrong.

As soon as the news broke last night, my news feed was filled with rhetoric from two extremes: those who say that drilling is an economic imperative and a matter of national security, no matter the cost, and those who say that all drilling must stop now, no matter what.

But that cannot be the singular focus when the risk associated with oil and gas exploration and drilling is something that the people who make their homes in the Gulf region grapple with every day. The Gulf is a complex place and the undeniable reality is that thousands of people rely on it for their livelihood.

For our ocean and the people that rely on it, we can and should do better in the Gulf–and other places where drilling occurs.

Here are a few places to start:

1. Better monitoring

Our Charting the Gulf report revealed that that Gulf’s offshore wildlife and habitats are not monitored to the same degree as those in the coastal areas. This monitoring is vital for species like bottlenose dolphins, which will likely need 40-50 years to fully recover from the BP oil disaster, along with deep-water corals, which could need hundreds of years to improve.

2. Commitment to restoring the Gulf beyond the shore

This new spill is one of a long list of stressors on the Gulf’s wildlife and habitats in the open ocean. BP has paid $1 billion to restore the open ocean, but the future of the deep waters of the Gulf is anything but secure. We must hold our Gulf leaders accountable and restore the Gulf’s deep sea, where the BP oil disaster began and where other spills are likely to occur.

3. Better response planning and risk assessment

The BP oil disaster taught us many lessons about the risks associated with oil drilling in the Gulf, especially the lack of updated response technology. We must apply these lessons to not just the Gulf, but in all areas where drilling and shipping pose a critical risk for our ocean.

I’m proud to live and work in the Gulf. While we tend to make national headlines when there’s been a disaster, the Gulf is beautiful, resilient and is on the path to recovery – as long as we stay committed and work together.

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State of the Arctic: An Update on Drilling http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/22/state-of-the-arctic-an-update-on-drilling/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/22/state-of-the-arctic-an-update-on-drilling/#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2015 17:59:00 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10935

The past few weeks have delivered a lot of good news to those of us who feel that offshore drilling in Arctic waters is too risky and too much of a threat to both the region and the planet’s climate. But, while we have two pieces of good news to share with you, these victories are temporary. We still need to work together on solutions to protect our future from risky offshore drilling.

Let’s get to the good news! First, in late September, Shell announced that it was retreating from oil exploration off the coast of Alaska “for the foreseeable future.” Despite ever-increasing opposition from conservation groups, activists and concerned citizens, Shell drilled an exploration well in the Chukchi Sea this past summer. But the results were not what the company had hoped they would be. Instead of a bonanza, Shell’s well failed to yield enough oil to warrant additional exploration. In addition to the disappointing results from the well itself, Shell cited high costs and challenging regulations as reasons for its retreat from the Arctic.

Then, just a few weeks after the news from Shell, the Obama Administration announced that it was cancelling the two Arctic offshore lease sales scheduled under the current five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program. Because of the cancellations, there will be no Chukchi Sea lease sale in 2017 and no Beaufort Sea lease sale in 2017. At the same time, the Administration also denied requests from Shell and Statoil to “suspend” their Arctic leases. Denial of the suspensions means that the oil companies will not get additional time to explore for oil in the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

These announcements represent major victories for all those who joined together in opposition to risky drilling schemes in the offshore Arctic. Even so, Arctic waters still face significant threats and challenges, and there’s still more work to do to protect Arctic waters from the threat of offshore drilling.

For example, the offshore leases held by the oil companies remain valid: in general, oil leases in the Beaufort Sea won’t expire until 2017 and oil leases in the Chukchi Sea won’t expire until 2020. We need to keep up the pressure to ensure that companies like Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and Repsol keep their oil rigs well away from vulnerable Arctic waters.

In addition, despite its recent decision to cancel Arctic leases under the current five-year oil and gas leasing program, the Obama Administration has proposed a new draft five-year program that calls for two new oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Ocean. Let’s not go down that road again.

Join me in standing up for the Arctic! Please take action today by making your voice heard. Help close the door on risky Arctic drilling and ask President Obama to remove the proposed Arctic lease sales from the next five-year program.

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Victory in the Arctic: Shell Terminates Drilling Activities in the Chukchi Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/28/victory-in-the-arctic-shell-terminates-drilling-activities-in-the-chukchi-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/28/victory-in-the-arctic-shell-terminates-drilling-activities-in-the-chukchi-sea/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 19:17:23 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10779

Early on Monday morning, Shell announced that it would no longer pursue oil-drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. Shell’s announcement has been a long time coming, and marks a major victory for all those who have opposed Arctic drilling as too risky and too much of a threat to the Arctic ecosystem and the planet’s climate.

Shell purchased its Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, but was precluded from drilling on its leases for many years. Among other things, legal challenges exposed flaws in the government’s environmental analyses and the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster resulted in a temporary restriction on Arctic drilling. In 2012, Shell finally received the green light to drill in the Chukchi Sea, but the company was woefully unprepared for the challenge: vessels were not ready, spill response equipment failed under testing, equipment spewed air pollution in violation of standards and one of its drill rigs was swept ashore in a storm on the way back to Seattle. In the end, Shell failed to complete a single well in 2012.


This year, when Shell finally returned to the Arctic, it did so under intense scrutiny. Government regulators ensured that Shell conformed to rules designed to protect vulnerable species like Pacific walrus. This meant that Shell could only operate one of its two Arctic drilling rigs and could only drill for a short window of time during the ice-free summer season. Activists protested the presence of Shell’s Arctic vessels in in Seattle and Portland, highlighting the risk of an oil spill in icy and remote waters—and the risk to the planet’s climate if Shell found and developed a massive oil reservoir in the Arctic Ocean. And Shell encountered at least one problem reminiscent of its failed 2012 season when one of its ice-breaking vessels struck an uncharted object, opening a gash in its hull.

Despite these challenges, Shell persisted with its efforts to complete an exploration well in the Chukchi Sea. But when the company final did so earlier this summer, it found that there was not enough oil to justify additional exploration at the prospect. In a press release, Shell announced that it would “cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.” In addition to the sub-optimal results from the exploration well, Shell cited high costs and challenging regulations as reasons for giving up.

Shell’s decision to retreat from the Arctic Ocean is great news for the bowhead whales, walruses, ice-dependent seals and other wildlife species that could have been devastated by an oil spill in this remote region. Local communities depend on marine mammals like these to support a subsistence way of life that stretches back for thousands of years.

Shell’s decision to leave the Arctic Ocean should be viewed as an affirmation of all those who joined together in opposition to Shell’s risky drilling schemes. Now that the immediate threat of oil drilling has ended, we can focus on crafting sustainable solutions for long-term health in this rapidly changing region.

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The 26 Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/24/the-26-anniversary-of-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-in-alaska/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/24/the-26-anniversary-of-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-in-alaska/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 17:45:33 +0000 Brett Nolan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10005

Today marks the 26 anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska where nearly 11 million gallons of oil spewed into the ocean over the course of three days. Exxon failed to carry out its pre-approved oil spill response plan because their response barge was “out of service and unavailable for use.” Even if the barge were operational, it lacked enough skimmers and booms to handle the spill. Government officials and local volunteers quickly began spearheading the cleanup. Despite their best efforts to make up for Exxon’s systematic failure, only 14 percent of the spill was removed. This massive spill caused then Governor of Alaska, Steve Cowper, to declare a state of emergency. Oil from the spill can still be found today and some places may be as toxic as they were 26 years ago.

Now, more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Arctic Ocean is still threatened by risky oil drilling. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released an analysis that showed a 75 percent chance of at least one major spill if companies were allowed to develop oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Rapidly forming sea ice, fog, high winds, extreme cold and lack of infrastructure make it nearly impossible to clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters. Even in the Gulf of Mexico, only 19 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster was removed or dispersed.

Oil companies have failed to show they can drill responsibly in the Arctic. In 2012, Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground near Kodiak Island on its way back from drilling operations in the Beaufort Sea. A Coast Guard report found that Shell failed to recognize the risk, used subpar equipment to deal with the environment and had too little experience dealing with Arctic waters. Also, Shell was in a hurry to move Kulluk because they didn’t want to pay state taxes to Alaska for keeping it there after the after year.

A recent  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) analysis showed that marine mammals in the Arctic would be subject to dangerous levels of noise caused by exploration drilling. This could disrupt migrations, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding and sheltering.

At this very moment, a barge carrying 925 gallons of diesel fuel has been drifting aimlessly in the Arctic after severe weather broke its tow 5 months ago. Rapidly forming sea ice has beaten back any attempts at securing the vessel. The earliest another rescue attempt could be made is July.

People and marine life alike depend on a clean and healthy Arctic. Adding reckless drilling to the number of threats facing the Arctic (like loss of sea ice, rising temperatures and increased shipping) will only make matters worse in this once pristine environment.

 

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NOAA Says Shell Drilling Would Impact Thousands of Marine Mammals http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 19:28:33 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9986

Earlier this year, President Obama took executive action to protect some of the Arctic Ocean’s most significant marine areas from the threats posed by oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately, some areas of the Arctic Ocean were left open to oil companies, and oil giant Shell has been gearing up to make another attempt to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released an analysis that details how Shell’s proposed drilling operations may impact whales and seals. The results? Tens of thousands of of animals may be exposed to noise that could disrupt vital life activities like migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, and sheltering. NOAA’s analysis determined that more than 50,000 seals and more than 6,000 whales–including belugas, bowheads, grays, and humpbacks–could be affected by Shell’s proposed drilling activities.


Arctic whales and seals are already feeling the effects of climate change and the rapid loss of summer sea ice; the impacts associated with Shell’s proposed drilling activities would only add to their stress. Drilling activities also present the risk of a catastrophic oil spill, and extreme conditions like changing sea ice, fog, and high winds make meaningful cleanup all but impossible in the Arctic Ocean. A disaster like the Deepwater Horizon in the Chukchi Sea would devastate marine wildlife and jeopardize food security in Alaska Native communities.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will soon decide whether to approve Shell’s proposals to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer. Join us in taking a stand against reckless drilling: Tell the Secretary of the Interior to say “no” to Shell. Sign our petition, today.

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Shell’s Kulluk Disaster Featured in New York Times Sunday Magazine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/02/shells-kulluk-disaster-featured-in-new-york-times-sunday-magazine/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/02/shells-kulluk-disaster-featured-in-new-york-times-sunday-magazine/#comments Fri, 02 Jan 2015 15:19:09 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9668

Photo: Coast Guard

In late December of 2012, one of Shell Oil’s Arctic drillships, the Kulluk, snapped its tow-line during a powerful storm in the North Pacific. After multiple failed attempts to re-establish a tow, the Coast Guard evacuated the crew of the Kulluk, rescue tugs abandoned their efforts to pull the ship to safety, and the Kulluk grounded on Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak, Alaska.  The January 4 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine tells the dramatic story of the events that led up to the disaster in an article entitled, The Wreck of the Kulluk.

The Sunday Magazine story tells a gripping tale, especially if you like accounts of drama on the sea. Aside from being a good read, the story makes clear that Shell and its contractors easily could have avoided the disaster. Before leaving port, the tug’s tow master predicted that Kulluk’s planned route “guarantees an ass kicking.” Warnings signs don’t get much clearer than that. But the tow master’s caution, like many other warning signs—was ignored.

I wrote about Shell’s multiple mistakes and its failure to recognize risk in this blog post, which was published soon after the Coast Guard released a report on its investigation into the Kulluk incident. Another  Coast Guard investigation led to the recent announcement that Shell contractor Noble Drilling would plead guilty to eight felony charges and pay more than $12 million in fines relating to violations onboard Shell’s other Arctic drillship, the Noble Discoverer.

Unfortunately, Shell wants to return to the Arctic this coming summer. The oil giant has submitted plans to bring the Noble Discoverer and another drillship to the Chukchi Sea this year. That could spell double trouble for the Arctic. Tell the Secretary of the Interior to say “no” to Shell’s risky drilling plans. Please sign our petition today.

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/14/the-9th-circuit-of-appeals-rules-in-favor-of-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/14/the-9th-circuit-of-appeals-rules-in-favor-of-the-ocean/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 19:30:42 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9515

Photo: Steven Dingeldein

Good news! The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just dismissed a case in which Shell sued Ocean Conservancy and several other conservation and Alaska Native organizations.

That’s right. Shell sued us. And not just once—three times.

Several years ago, federal agencies issued a series of permits that Shell needed to carry out drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean. Shell was worried that conservation organizations like Ocean Conservancy would challenge the validity of those permits, which might hinder its ability to drill. In response, Shell initiated a series of highly unusual preemptive lawsuits, naming Ocean Conservancy and others as defendants and asking the court to declare that the federal permits were lawful in all respects.

We felt strongly that Shell’s unconventional preemptive lawsuits were improper under the law. And we were concerned that Shell’s lawsuits were an attempt to intimidate nonprofit organizations and discourage them from opposing risky Arctic drilling. As a result, we and the other organizations moved to dismiss Shell’s preemptive lawsuits.

And this past Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us.

The dismissal of Shell’s preemptive lawsuit sends a strong signal to Shell and other oil and gas companies:  Intimidation will not work and conservation organizations have a right to question and challenge federal permits that authorize risky Arctic drilling. Arctic wildlife and people who live in coastal communities in the Arctic depend on a clean and healthy ocean. We won’t stand by while Shell puts them all in danger, even if it means having to go to the courts to defend our—and all U.S. citizens’ —rights to ensure that our Arctic resources are protected.

And make no mistake, Shell’s proposals to drill in the Arctic Ocean pose a significant threat. In fact, a new federal analysis determined that there is a 75% chance of a large oil spill if oil and gas development and production goes forward in the offshore Arctic. A large spill could be catastrophic for the wildlife and the people who depend on the Arctic ocean—and cleaning up a spill would be all but impossible given the remoteness of the region, sea ice, severe weather, and lack of infrastructure.

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