Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed that it will start drilling and exploring for oil in the Arctic within days.
Despite continued protests and pressure from both environmental activists and lobbying groups, the US Department of The Interior, granted approval for the Arctic exploratory drilling back in May.
Using the Port of Seattle as a base from which to run its Arctic operations, Shell found itself amongst continued vehement protests.
Although well placed geographically, the Port of Seattle has proved a perfect arena for activists and local environmentalists alike to stage protests against the company and its planned Arctic exploration. Protests peaked back in May with the ‘Paddle In Seattle’, involving thousands of protesters, many of which local, heading out to the Polar Pioneer drilling rig in canoes.
One of the protests involved a barge calling itself the ‘Solar Pioneer’. Used to hold music consorts, the organisers of the barge caused significant damage to the marine park below when large concrete blocks and steel cables were dumped overboard and use for mooring. Locals contacted the CEO of Shell Ben van Beurden, who helped organise and pay for a cleanup of the damage.
The US Department of The Interior’s decision to grant approval for the Arctic exploration, came with a condition that Shell had environmental and emergency spill plans in place.
As part of that plan, Shell has in place a total of thirty ships to support the Polar Pioneer in drilling the first two exploratory wells, which have all now left and are en route to the first drilling location.
Arctic exploration isn’t new for Shell. In 1989, Shell discovered gas within Arctic waters.
The cost so of the current project stands at US$7bn (£4.5bn), although this could rise by as much as US$1.4bn.
Due to the political pressure and current oil price, the wider offshore exploration community seems to be waiting to see how things pan out for Shell before committing to exploration in the Arctic themselves. This comes even though most experts agree that the Arctic could yield over 20% of the worlds undiscovered oil and gas.