Shell halts its Arctic offshore drilling because of extreme weather

Shell has brought a temporary halt to its offshore Arctic oil-drilling operation because of dangerously high winds and waters in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, according to the Associated Press.

The company has been drilling there since July 30 but initially only to a depth of 3,000 feet because important capping stack emergency equipment was not in place.

Once that equipment arrived, on August 17, Shell was cleared by the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), to drill way down into the oil zone.

It had been doing so full on since getting clearance but now the hostile weather conditions have made the Shell operators pause.

Polar Pioneer, the semi-submersible drilling unit that attracted huge protests from environmentalists when crossing the Pacific and when docked in Seattle, has been used for all the drilling so far but now operations have been halted and it is anchored over the well.

Weather forecasts suggest these extreme conditions may persist until after the weekend, when Shell will in all likelihood resume its drilling. This is the first Arctic campaign by Shell since 2012, a campaign that ran into difficulties, some of them weather related.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.


  1. I was out there last year with Gazprom for nearly three months straight, the weather is always rough and bloody cold.

    Hope they get what needs to be done before the ice pack moves back in.

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