Following foibles in an Alaskan harbor, a global opposition campaign from environmental activists, revelations of a substandard equipment, the reality of crushing ice floes, and now a self-confirmed failure of an oil spill containment dome on one of its ships, Shell Oil has announced that it is abandoning its planned drilling operation in the arctic waters off the coast of Alaska.
At least for this year.
In a statement by Shell on Monday, the company said "the containment dome aboard the Arctic Challenger barge was damaged" and that due to the necessary repairs and other delays, they would forgo oil drilling operations for the remainder of the season.
Greenpeace, which has dogged Shell for its arctic drilling program, called Shell's announcement a 'vindication" for the millions of people who have joined their campaign to stop the drilling and said the move confirms that no oil company should be drilling for hydrocarbons in the ecological pristine yet dangerous conditions of the northern oceans.
"Shell has invested seven years of effort and spent the best part of $5 billion on its Arctic program," said Ben Ayliffe, Senior Arctic Campaigner at Greenpeace International, "but we can now see what a monumentally reckless gamble this was. The company has nothing to show for it except a series of almost farcical safety mishaps that has left its reputation in tatters. Investors must now be asking whether investing such vast sums of money trying to exploit the fragile Arctic is really worth it."
Shell's statement, however, was written as a clear attempt to reassure those same investors, and came with a promise that its decision to halt operations this year was determined so that it could "lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013."
In anticipation of next year, said Shell, it would use the remaining weeks of its current permit to initiate drilling wells, known as `top holes'. These holes will be drilled and then capped until Shell receives the longer-term drilling permits currently under federal review.
With that future in mind, Ayliffe said that Greenpeace will continue its fight to protect the Arctic. "Nearly 2 million people from around the world have joined the Greenpeace campaign to Save the Arctic and keep it off limits to oil companies. Today’s news is vindication for the effort they have put in confronting the oil giant in places as far apart as New Zealand and Edinburgh, but these millions will not stop until the whole of the pristine and unique Arctic is protected."
"As Arctic sea ice disappears at unheralded levels, it’s clear that we need to act urgently to tackle climate change. Shell’s setback in the far north should be the spur to positive action that the planet needs," he said.
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