Interior Department cancels two future offshore leases in Chukchi and Beaufort seas and will refuse requests from oil companies to renew existing leases
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 16 October 2015
Barack Obama blocked off the prospects for future oil drilling in the Arctic on Friday, imposing new lease conditions that make it practically impossible for companies to hunt for oil in the world’s last great wilderness.
The Department of Interior said it was canceling two future auctions of Arctic offshore oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and turned down requests from Shell and other oil companies for more time on their existing leases.
By Sara Jerving, Katie Jennings, Masako Melissa Hirsch and Susanne Rust
Los Angeles Times, 9 October 2015
Back in 1990, as the debate over climate change was heating up, a dissident shareholder petitioned the board of Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil companies, imploring it to develop a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production plants and facilities.
The board’s response: Exxon had studied the science of global warming and concluded it was too murky to warrant action. The company’s “examination of the issue supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.”
Yet in the far northern regions of Canada’s Arctic frontier, researchers and engineers at Exxon and Imperial Oil were quietly incorporating climate change projections into the company’s planning and closely studying how to adapt the company’s Arctic operations to a warming planet.
Steven Lee Myers & Clifford Krauss, New York Times, 7 September 2015
TERIBERKA, Russia — The warming Arctic should already have transformed this impoverished fishing village on the coast of the Barents Sea.
The Kremlin spent billions in the last decade in hopes of turning it into a northern hub of its energy powerhouse, Gazprom. It was once the most ambitious project planned in the Arctic Ocean, but now there is little to show for it aside from a shuttered headquarters and an enormous gravel road carved out of the windblown coastline like a scar.
“There are plans,” said Viktor A. Turchaninov, the village’s mayor, “but the facts — the realities of life — suggest the opposite.”
US officials want to make sure companies can handle a blow-out in remote and icy conditions – without inflicting an environmental disaster
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 20 February 2015
The Obama administration proposed new rules for Arctic oil drilling on Friday in an attempt to avoid repeating Shell’s disastrous foray into extreme waters.
The proposals, shaped by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the grounding of Shell’s drill ship in the Arctic two years later, are aimed at making sure companies could handle a blow-out in remote and icy conditions – without inflicting an environmental disaster on the pristine seas.
McKenzie Funk, New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2014
In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell, then the fourth-largest company on Earth, bought a drill rig that was both tall, rising almost 250 feet above the waterline, and unusually round. The hull of the Kulluk, as the rig was called, was made of 1.5-inch-thick steel and rounded to better prevent its being crushed. A 12-point anchor system could keep it locked in place above an oil well for a full day in 18-foot seas or in moving sea ice that was four feet thick. Its drill bit, dropped from a 160-foot derrick, could plunge 600 feet into the sea, then bore another 20,000 feet into the seabed, where it could verify the existence of oil deposits that were otherwise a geologist’s best guess. It had a sauna. It could go (in theory) where few other rigs could go, helping Shell find oil that (in theory) few other oil companies could find. ...
Margaret Kriz Hobson, EnergyWire, Thursday, July 18, 2013
A year ago this September, Royal Dutch Shell PLC began the first new oil drilling in U.S. Arctic waters in more than two decades. The company spent $5 billion and dispatched an armada of ships and equipment to offshore Alaska to evaluate the energy resources on its federal leases.
From the beginning, however, Shell's operation faced a multitude of problems -- everything from lingering sea ice to a damaged oil spill containment dome. The Dutch company was never able to secure the permits needed to drill into the hydrocarbon zone on its leases.
WASHINGTON -- Canada will begin a two-year stint at the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council amid a clamour of competing calls for leadership, as the ice recedes and the race heats up to extract resource riches while protecting a fragile and now-exposed environment.
Two Canadian legal scholars have published a study showing how the push by northern nations for extended seabed territory in the Arctic Ocean could soon find Canada negotiating a maritime boundary with a new next-door neighbour: Russia.
Most of Canada's borderlands and boundary waters separate this country from the United States, including Alaska in the northwest corner of the continent. Canada also has maritime boundaries with Denmark (between Ellesmere Island and Greenland) and France, which oversees the tiny islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon south of Newfoundland.
But the possibility that Canada and Russia might one day share a border has, until now, seemed unimaginable given the vast ocean distances separating the two countries, and the relatively modest 370-kilometre (200-nautical-mile) offshore zone within which nations are permitted to exercise exclusive jurisdiction and resource rights.
But a recently revealed oddity arising from a Beaufort Sea boundary dispute between Canada and the U.S. — along with the advent of a UN treaty allowing countries to claim ownership over extended continental shelves lying beyond the current 200-mile limit — has highlighted how Canada and Russia could be on a cartographic intercept course somewhere north of 80 degrees latitude.
The surprising scenario is laid out in a lengthy article published this month in the academic journal Ocean Development & International Law and co-authored by University of British Columbia geopolitics professor Michael Byers, a leading Canadian expert on Arctic sovereignty issues, and his PhD student, James Baker.
AMUNDSEN GULF, N.W.T.—Two powerful icebreakers — one Canadian, the other American — have just met up in the Beaufort Sea, setting up the latest play in a circumpolar hockey game.
Together, the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent and USCGC Healy will map the Alpha Ridge, a 2,000 kilometre-long range of underwater mountains running from the northwest flank of Canada’s Ellesmere Island toward Russia’s Wrangle Island.