Oil companies abandon Arctic drilling rights

Oil companies abandon Arctic drilling rights

Major oil companies have abandoned hundreds of leases for offshore drilling rights in the United States's portion of the Arctic Ocean.

Federal government documents obtained by environmental group Oceana show that ConocoPhillips Co., Italy’s Eni and Iona Energy, Inc., abandoned all their leases in the Chukchi Sea, to the north and west of Alaska.

ADVERTISEMENT
Royal Dutch Shell has abandoned numerous leases and said it plans to relinquish all but one.

Oil companies have, in total, abandoned 2.2 million acres of Arctic drilling rights, Oceana said, and 80 percent of all area in the American Arctic leased in a 2008 sale has been or will be abandoned.

For Shell and ConocoPhillips, the decisions came just before a May 1 deadline to pay millions of dollars to keep its leases active.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith confirmed Oceana’s account, saying the decision came “after extensive consideration and evaluation.”

Shell spent about $2.5 billion over seven years in preparation to drill a single exploratory well last summer in the Chukchi following a disastrous attempt in 2012.

It concluded after drilling that the exploration was not worth the costs of drilling in the remote area, so it decided to abandon Arctic drilling for the foreseeable future.

Statoil, Total, EnCana and Armstrong have also given up Chukchi leases, Oceana found.

“Today we are an important step closer to a sustainable future for the Arctic Ocean. After spending more than a decade and billions of dollars, even Shell has had to recognize that offshore oil exploration in the Arctic is not worth the environmental or economic risks,” Michael LeVine, senior counsel for Oceana, said in a statement. “Hopefully, today marks the end of the ecologically and economically risky push to drill in the Arctic Ocean.”

Shell is holding on to the lease for the well it drilled last year, but Smith said its staff and contractors will remove the drilling equipment this summer.