Shell Begins Preparatory Drilling For First Arctic Oil Well

Royal Dutch Shell has begun preparatory drilling for a new offshore oil well located in the Arctic. The project began after the United States granted the company permission to begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea, approximately 90 miles off the Alaskan North Slope. The start of the project marks a long and controversial battle that placed oil company’s against environmental activists.

In a written statement regarding the project, company spokesman Curtis Smith said:

“Today marks the culmination of Shell’s six-year effort to explore for potentially significant oil and gas reserves, which are believed to lie under Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. In the days to come, drilling will continue in the Chukchi Sea, and we will prepare for drilling to commence in the Beaufort Sea.”

While Shell is moving forward with drilling, the Obama administration has only given the company permission to being “certain limited preparatory activities,” including the installation of a blowout preventer. That preventer is meant to ensure that the same type of problems associated with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill do not occur at the Arctic site.

The US Geological Survey estimates more than 90 billion barrels of oil may be recoverable from the area. The organization also believes up to 1,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may be found.

More wells are expected as the region’s sea ice continues to shrink, allowing for more energy exploration to commence in the area.

Environmental groups, in the meantime, warn that fighting an oil spill in the Arctics inhospitable conditions could be a nightmare should anything go wrong at the Shell drilling site.

Do you think drilling in the Arctic is a bad decision on the part of Shell and the US government?