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Shell Pushes To Drill In Arctic, Faces Spill-Response Questions


AUGUST 25, 2010


WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–A Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA, RDSA.LN) executive told a commission investigating the BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) oil spill Wednesday that drilling off the coast of Alaska was safer than deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. He then faced challenges from a fellow panelist who said responding to a spill in Arctic waters would be much harder.

“It is adequate to proceed,” Joe Leimkuhler, an offshore well delivery manager for Shell Exploration and Production, told the National Commission on the BP-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Shell repeatedly has said it plans to drill in 150 feet of water, not the mile-foot depths BP was exploring. “In the Arctic the operating environment is indeed fundamentally different,” he said. He added that Shell plans to have “a flotilla of vessels” accompany drilling ships in the Arctic.

But Carter Roberts, the president of the World Wildlife Fund, said the Arctic region had few people, few ports, and little Coast Guard presence. “A response gap is much more present than in the Gulf,” Roberts told the panel. Also missing: the oil-eating bacteria that have been credited with naturally degrading the oil. “It doesn’t have the microbes, those wonderful microbes that began to consume oil in the Gulf.”

Shell has much at stake as the presidential commission investigates the BP spill, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The company had wanted to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20. Within five weeks, U.S. President Barack Obama put the drilling plans on hold until the commission could complete a review of the disaster.

-By Siobhan Hughes, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6654;


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