Despite massive setbacks, and a shed of the company’s North American assets, Royal Dutch Shell appears to have made a decision to continue to pursue drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.
Shell’s campaign to resume Arctic drilling in 2015 took a major step forward Thursday, as the company gave federal regulators a broad drilling blueprint that lays out plans for boring new exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi Sea. The exploration plan filed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Anchorage keeps the door open for Shell Oil Co. to resume its Arctic drilling campaign as soon as summer 2015. It is the strongest evidence yet that Shell’s new CEO, Ben van Beurden, is willing to keep pursuing a big discovery in the U.S. Arctic, after a mishap-plagued 2012 exploration campaign ended with the grounding of the company’s Kulluk drilling rig and a $200 million loss for scrapping it.
Production, if it happens at all, is up to a decade away. Still, the big challenge now for the state’s federal delegation is to get a revenue sharing bill passed so that the state can share in the spoils with the feds, if there are any. A bill was proposed last year by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, which would have given Alaska and other coastal states up to 37.5 percent of federal royalty revenue for energy production off their coastlines. The bill was opposed by environmental groups who oppose offshore drilling. It got one hearing in the Senate Energy Committee, and is now languishing, even though Landrieu is chair of the committee and Murkowski is a ranking member.