Shell Halts Arctic Oil Search for 2012

The company announced it will stop drilling into deepwater zones for this year but will drill the top portions of as many wells as possible during the remaining season, then cap and temporarily abandon them.

Royal Dutch Shell announced Sept. 17 that it will halt drilling wells in the deepwater of offshore Alaska Arctic for the rest of 2012 but will continue to drill the top portions of as many wells as possible during the remaining season and then cap and temporarily abandon them.

The company moved two drill ships and more than 20 support vessels into position earlier this year to commence drilling, and it had an approved capping stack and other spill response equipment ready.

"Over the last several days, Shell has successfully completed a series of tests of the first-ever Arctic Containment System. However, during a final test, the containment dome aboard the Arctic Challenger barge was damaged," Shell's release states. "It is clear that some days will be required to repair and fully assess dome readiness. We are disappointed that the dome has not yet met our stringent acceptance standards; but, as we have said all along, we will not conduct any operation until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to do it safely.

"The time required to repair the dome, along with steps we have taken to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice floe movement, have led us to revise our plans for the 2012-2013 exploration program. In order to lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013, we will forgo drilling into hydrocarbon zones this year. Instead, we will begin as many wells, known as 'top holes,' as time remaining in this season allows. The top portion of the wells drilled in the days and weeks ahead will be safely capped and temporarily abandoned this year, in accordance with regulatory requirements. We look forward to the final receipt of our drilling permits for the multi-year exploration program upon the successful testing and deployment of the Arctic Containment System."

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