A Dangerous Gamble in the Arctic

A Dangerous Gamble in the Arctic

by Bill Meadows

The Arctic recently sent a strong warning that hubris has no place in one of the world’s most challenging, high-stakes environments. Shell Oil, which is ready to take a dangerous drilling gamble in the Arctic’s icy waters, should take note.

In mid-February, the Spanish company Repsol suffered a blowout at its onshore Qugruk 2 well on Alaska’s North Slope. Drillers hit a pocket of gas more than 2,500 feet beneath the surface. Natural gas and an estimated 42,000 gallons of drilling mud spewed from the well, and workers evacuated the rig to avoid the risk of an explosion or fire. After nearly a month of trying to bring the well under control — made more difficult with temperatures so cold it was impossible to operate outdoor equipment — Repsol decided to plug and abandon the well. Drilling mud cleanup will begin now that the well has been plugged.

After the blowout, the well’s hydraulic lines and other components quickly froze in the frigid Arctic air. Despite losing its well, Repsol was lucky; no workers were injured or killed, and no oil was spilled. Things could have been much worse. Continue reading “A Dangerous Gamble in the Arctic”

We Have “Learned Nothing” from BP Disaster: Obama Opens More of Arctic to Offshore Drilling

Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the Obama Administration’s highly anticipated plan for proposed offshore oil and gas leases from 2012-2017.  It focuses on exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and giving oil companies the chance to bid on drilling rights in Arctic waters, including the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Cook Inlet.

Because the plan targets areas with known potential for oil and gas development where exploration is currently active, the administration is ruling out drilling along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts — including an area near Virginia that had been slated for exploration prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Continue reading “We Have “Learned Nothing” from BP Disaster: Obama Opens More of Arctic to Offshore Drilling”