It seems it has been quite a week for the big oil companies. You may have read that the BP trial has started opening with accusations of cost cutting and safety problems which allegedly caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that lasted 87 days, releasing an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil. While there is some speculation that the case will settle, with negotiators working on a multibillion-dollar settlement, it remains to be seen. Meanwhile another significant development has happened in the off-shore drilling world, though this time it is on the positive end of things.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC has announced that it will suspend offshore petrol drilling in the Arctic Ocean for 2013.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas exist below Arctic waters, according to the Huffington Post, many who oppose Arctic drilling argue that the risks outweigh the benefits. An Arctic spill could mean a clean-up in one if the most harsh terrains in the world. Not to mention an environmental catastrophe for the diverse ecosystem that supports many endangered animals like polar bears, whales and seals.
For now though the drilling has ceased due to multiple factors from the two ships that Shell has been using having mechanical problems, to one ship running aground and safety violations found by the coast guard. Many people from politicians to environmentalists are praising Shell for taking this respite to reevaluate their approach in the Arctic. Though many environmentalists and green minded folk feel that this break should become permanent, pointing to this as a sign that if the company with the highest revenue in the world, according to CNN Money, cannot safely extract oil from the Arctic, the prospect of drilling there must be reconsidered.
With big companies like ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Norway’s Statoil in the wings with drilling leases in the Arctic it will be intriguing to see how this situation develops. Meanwhile this one year pause, according to environmentalists, could give lawmakers and the White House the opportunity to review the delicacy of this issue. With much at stake from endangered Arctic animals to the marine life and ocean balance perhaps it is admirable that Shell has taken a step back to regroup.
What do you think? Is this suspension a signal that Arctic drilling should be banned? Do you think it is possible to safely remove petrol from the sea floors without damaging the delicate ecosystem? Tell us your thoughts on Arctic drilling.