For all the hue and cry over Shell’s current oil exploration campaign in the Arctic it could yet be almost 15 years before there is any production of fossil fuels from that hostile marine environment, the oil giant’s CEO said in an interview with the BBC.
Shell has been drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska since July 30 after clearing numerous bureaucratic and logistical hurdles, not to mention the diligent spoiling efforts of environmentalists.
The company is back drilling in Arctic waters for the first time in three years after a previous campaign experienced a few pitfalls.
Protesters’ main objection has related to the potential of environmental catastrophe and particularly the company’s readiness to react to a major polluting event.
There has also been broader concern about the impact of increased oil production on perceived climate change.
But, on the former point at least, Shell is in step with the green activists according to what CEO Ben van Beurden told the BBC. He insisted environmental safety is the firm’s priority.
He also said that if this season’s exploratory drilling yields no prospects the company will probably end its Arctic efforts.
But even in the likelier scenario that the results are positive from Shell’s point of view, there is still a long road ahead.
Van Beurden told the BBC he does not envisage a production campaign being sanctioned before 2020 and thinks it would not be put in effect until “nearer 2030”.