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With Shell’s Failure, U.S. Arctic Drilling Is Dead

With Shell’s Failure, U.S. Arctic Drilling Is Dead

Arctic Drilling in the U.S. is dead.

After more than eight years of planning and drilling, costing more than $7 billion, Royal Dutch Shell announced that it is shutting down its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. The bombshell announcement dooms any chance of offshore oil development in the U.S. Arctic for years.

Shell said that it had completed its exploration well that it was drilling this summer, a well drilled at 6,800 feet of depth called the Burger J. Shell was focusing on the Burger prospect, located off the northwest coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea, which it thought could hold a massive volume of oil.

On September 28, the company announced that it had “found indications of oil and gas in the Burger J well, but these are not sufficient to warrant further exploration in the Burger prospect. The well will be sealed and abandoned in accordance with U.S. regulations.”

After the disappointing results, Shell will not try again. “Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.” The company cited both the poor results from its highly touted Burger J well, but also the extraordinarily high costs of Arctic drilling, as well as the “unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”

Shell will have to take a big write-down, with charges of at least $3 billion, plus another $1.1 billion in contracts it had with rigs and supplies.

Shell’s Arctic campaign was an utter failure. It spent $7 billion over the better part of a decade, including an initial $2.1 billion just to purchase the leases from the U.S. government back in 2008. The campaign was riddled with mishaps, equipment failures, permit violations, and stiff opposition from environmental groups, including the blockading of their icebreaker in a port in Portland, OR this past summer. The FT reports that Shell executives privately admit that the environmental protests damaged the company’s reputation and had a larger impact than they had anticipated.

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