Shell's 2012 Arctic Drilling Season Concludes

Published Dec 13, 2012 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

Shell has ended its drilling season off Alaska’s Arctic. With a shortened amount of time, the oil giant managed to drill just the top portions of two wells, when it had originally planned as many as six exploration wells.

The company did not try to penetrate deeper reservoirs that could hold oil, but confirms that this work will aid tremendously in positioning Shell for a successful drilling program in 2013. Each well was drilled to a depth of 1,400 feet, according to the Seattle Times.

Despite the mass opposition surrounding Shell’s exploratory drilling plans, the Obama administration issued the drilling permits that were necessary to begin work.

Alaska's open-water season is usually restricted to about four months of the year. Although the Arctic region is suffering from an overall ice thaw, the sea ice lasted longer than predicted in the Chukchi Sea where Shell was planning to drill. Following the receipt of its final permit, Shell still had to wait for a giant ice sheet to pass.

Their season got shorter again because of delays in retrofitting a spill containment barge so that it would pass Coast Guard inspection. The oil spill containment dome was later damaged during sea trials. As precious time continued to dwindle, the U.S. Interior Department gave Shell permission to drill the tops of its planned wells and to set in place blowout preventers, ultimately stating that there was not enough time for Shell to try to drill down to reservoirs that the company hopes contain oil and natural gas.