Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Shell Makes Reassurances on Drilling



Published: May 18, 2010

Responding to a federal request to increase safety measures for its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, Shell Oil on Monday vowed an “unprecedented” response in the event of an oil spill, including staging a pre-made dome in Alaska for use in trying to contain any leaking well.

As the Obama Administration reviews the safety and environmental risks of offshore oil drilling after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the fate of the pending Shell project in Alaska looms more urgently. Shell has received initial permits and hopes to begin exploratory drilling this summer. Yet the project, which would be the first offshore drilling in Alaska in many years, still requires final permits and could be delayed.

Environmentalists and Native Alaskan groups that have long worked to stop the project have seized on the Gulf spill to emphasize risks in the Alaska project. The drill sites, far out in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, are in some of the most remote and frigid waters of North America, with ice forming much of the year, endangered whales and other animals living in the area and little onshore support in the event of a spill.

In a letter sent to the head of the Minerals Management Service, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, Shell’s president, Marvin E. Odum, said Shell the dome it would have ready would “take into consideration issues with hydrate formation.” In the Gulf spill, a huge box built to try to contain the leaking well proved ineffective after it became clogged with gas hydrates — crystal structures that form when gas and water mix.

Shell also said it would be ready to apply dispersal agents below water “at the source of any oil flow” after “all necessary permits are acquired.”

The company also said it would work to prevent a spill from happening, including refining how it drills, increasing the frequency of inspections of its blowout preventer to 7 days from 14 – the blowout preventer failed in the Gulf spill – and adding a remote underwater vehicle nearby that would be capable of working on the blowout preventer.

Marilyn Heiman, the U.S. Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement, “Basic questions remain about Shell’s ability to respond to any significant sized oil spill in Arctic waters” and she called for Minerals Management to “suspend offshore lease operations in the Arctic until these issues are addressed. It would be irresponsible to move forward.”

NYT ARTICLE and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

0 Comments on “Shell Makes Reassurances on Drilling”

Leave a Comment

Comment Rules

  • Please show respect to the opinions of others no matter how seemingly far-fetched.
  • Abusive, foul language, and/or divisive comments may be deleted without notice.
  • Each blog member is allowed limited comments, as displayed above the comment box.
  • Comments must be limited to the number of words displayed above the comment box.
  • Please limit one comment after any comment posted per post.

%d bloggers like this: