The following is an excerpt from Tony Dokoupil | September 28, 2015 | msnbc.com |
After investing 10 years and $7 billion in the American Arctic, Shell said on Monday that it would shelve plans to tap the potentially vast oil reserve, leaving “for the foreseeable future” after a disappointing drilling season.
The announcement is a major setback for the oil giant, which had hoped for the largest untapped layer of oil on Earth but instead found a series of accidents, errors and misadventures that scared off competitors and could in effect cordon off the Arctic for good.
Shell had been the only major oil company with an active plan in the Arctic. In recent years, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron have all suspended activity.
Environmentalists cheered the surprise news, claiming victory after years of marches, blockades and chants of “Shell No!”
Under the terms of this year’s drilling plan, approved in May by the Obama administration, the company had from July 15 to September 28 before it would be forced to retreat ahead of plunging temperatures and heavy weather. In that time, Shell intended to sink at least one drill bit through the icy water, confirm the presence of oil and prepare a wellhead for production – before the company’s leases start expiring in 2017.
Even before this season, the exploration was among the costliest, most complicated and controversial in the history of hydrocarbon fuel. Three years ago, Shell’s flotilla of rigs and support vessels chugged confidently toward the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles off the untamed coast of northern Alaska. Even before they arrived, however, problems developed.
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