Can Arctic development be carried out safely and responsibly?


The unique region of the Arctic is a substantial source of natural gas and oil. It is also a unique environment, home to indigenous people, surviving on the natural resources of the area. Can Arctic development be carried out safely and responsibly?

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Our point of view

Operating in the Arctic means balancing economic, environmental and social concerns. Safety is always a top priority.

We recognise that the industry’s licence to operate in these areas depends on being able to operate safely and with respect for communities and the environment. Shell has operated in Arctic and subarctic conditions for decades, giving us the technical experience and know-how to explore for and produce oil and gas in a responsible way. Our record throughout our extensive operating and development experience in the Arctic and subarctic region demonstrates that we can operate safely, with respect for the environment and the people who live in the region.
We have a record of leading the development of technologies needed to overcome the challenges of developing oil and gas in the Arctic. These help us limit our impact on the environment, strengthen our ability to respond to oil spills, and make operating in ice safer.
At Shell, we work to build strong relationships with local communities. We learn from them and at the same time work to address their concerns and help them share the benefits of developing energy resources.


America’s Arctic: another point of view

There is a lack of basic scientific information about the Arctic Ocean. We do know that  the Arctic Ocean is an integral part of life in Arctic coastal communities that it supports iconic wildlife species;...

that it helps regulate the planet’s weather and climate; and that it is changing rapidly. However, scientists know very little about how the Arctic Ocean functions or the ways in which this fragile marine ecosystem might respond to industrial activities. There is significant missing information about even the most basic parameters for every one of the largest and most conspicuous animals in this ecosystem—including all fish, marine mammals, and birds—which are typically the most studied animals in an ecosystem.
A major oil spill in the Arctic Ocean would be impossible to clean up and could have enormous consequences for the region’s communities and ecosystems. During the winter months, the Arctic seas are covered with ice and are not navigable by oil spill response ships. If a spill started as winter ice sets in, the oil could continue to gush into the sea and under the ice for eight long months. Cleanup in the Arctic would be hampered by sea ice, extreme cold, hurricane-strength storms and pervasive fog. The nearest Coast Guard facilities are nearly 1,000 miles away, and there is no port in the Arctic capable of serving large response vessels.

Until issues such as the lack of science and the inability to clean up an oil spill in Arctic waters are addressed no development must happen.

This was a statement made by a group of 19 organisations including Greenpeace, WWF, Oceana and Pacific Environment.



Closed August 24th
Monday, 8th August 2011 15.08
I worked in Prudhoe Bay way back in the 1983 'Sea Lift' project for secondary recovery operations. The rules and regulations were SO strict you couldn't even walk off the designated path/roadways. The environmental protections for animals, tundra and such were phenomenally strict and enforced! Not a single incidence of 'oil spill' or other contamination that I ever heard of. Safe O&G recovery can be done. After all, this is really a case of National Security!!!!! Cheers, Skip Stein
Friday, 19th August 2011 14.27
technology and development is seeing the challenges from the start . i appreciate your move to Arctic as it comprises large part of earth & this move will surely give many things to the world
Monday, 8th August 2011 15.50
Shell and other oil companies are run by fallible humans, and hence no matter how strict the systems of safety and environmental control they will fail sooner or later. The Arctic is therefore guaranteed to be severely damaged by system failures and there is no known way of cleaning it up in such a severe environment. The idea of securing oil from such a hostile environment shows how far the world has gone from availability of cheap and accessible oil. Already the energy return on energy invested in oil recovery has gone from 100:1 in the early 20th Century to under 30:1 on average, with the Athabascar tar sands etc now giving a return of around 2:1. This shows how desperate the world is for oil. Sooner or later the oil will be gone, already we are beyond peak oil supply (the IEA stated the peak was in 2006) and have to reduce our oil consumption. I suggest we go for conservation now, not planetary or Arctic destruction before we change.
Wednesday, 17th August 2011 17.11
By the time we get beyond peak oil we will have fusion energy. The ROI is lower in large measure because of a shift in human values that places the needs of animals ahead of humans. What is needed is a long predictable ROI that Shell (or similar) will find acceptable and then do it. Shell needs to figure out how to recruit the public (those who are not hopelessly partisan leftists) to back their vision rather than let leftist greens run the show. Shell doesn't want to harm the environment but is placing far too much emphasis on safety because the left has them on the run. Their former CEO is a straight shooter and should be hired to round up members of the Tea Party by the millions. Shell + the Tea Party is a winning combo. Shell should team with most Americans and stop being afraid of the left. Never satisfy them. The same people demonizing the Tea Party also are enemies of Shell. Recruit Sarah Palin while you are at it. She wants Alaska's resources to bail out America.
Monday, 8th August 2011 18.08
After BP’s oil spill in Gulf of Mexico, concern of USA is natural as Arctic region is far remote and climatically more challenging. As a company Shell need to put forward a concrete techno-scientific proposal and plans for exploration and production as well as disaster management plan (to USA authorities), if by chance there may be oil spill in the Arctic. Suppose as a company I am putting forward my interest for exploration and production in the Arctic region then USA will ask me about my concrete plans, especially disaster management plans to handle any spill of hydrocarbon, if happened even after all precautions. Can Arctic development be carried out safely and responsibly? On this discussion topic my answer is yes. We can develop Arctic hydrocarbon resources safely and responsibly. Even though it is challenging, it is possible to develop and produce hydrocarbons safely with balancing economic, environmental and social concerns.
Tuesday, 9th August 2011 06.44
I do not doubt the genius of human mind to evolve effective ways of developing Artic Oil and Gas reserves. But I would like to know what would be next. Oil and Gas reserves are limited on this earth and our need for energy is exorbitantly growing. It would always be wise decision to channelise resources to something which is more sustainable and less risky. So, if question is can artic development be carried out safely and responsibly. The answer is yes but, i do not support that scale of investment and risk associated with these sort of projects.
Wednesday, 17th August 2011 15.02
Dear madam/sir Technological interventions in difficult environments; difficult meaning receiving/expecting complex feedbacks based on murphy's laws, is always in need of the best "human minds" one can find, to solve or address problems. So, private parties, like Shell, presenting themselves as worthy executors of the tasks defined, should use such "minds" in their communications to laity. Laity has a unique property which is not well recognised by the 'Hierarchy" in other words decision makers, being private or public, to deal with uncertainties!
Tuesday, 9th August 2011 18.29
abhi.vats, Next will be also oil and gas, but sources and locations may be different. You can see the trends of past decades. Earlier we were producing oil from sandstones and limestones reservoirs only. As we developed uses, we started capturing gas also. Later coal, shale became reservoirs. Gas hydrate is on the line. So as our understanding is increasing we are exploring for new sources of hydrocarbons and this will continue. Still we cannot produce all oil and gas from reservoirs. Small reserves are still untouched due to economic factors. As a professional or as a company or industry it is our responsibility to work continuously to find and develop new resources of hydrocarbons for the society. But I would like to emphasize here that the future of the industry is in hands of the industry itself. Industry need to increase the speed of R & D works so that industry can keep the pace with the needs of the society and the industry itself.
Wednesday, 10th August 2011 11.12
You are correct, We are all aware that by 2050 world energy demands will double as the world’s population is forecast to rise from 6 billion to 9 billion people. We know that to keep pace with this rising demand, the world will need to invest heavily in ALL energy sources, from oil and natural gas, to biofuels, nuclear power, solar and wind. But it takes time: 30 years for a new energy source to reach scale and contribute just 1% of world consumption. There is no silver bullet. It’s going to take a massive supply of diverse energy options. Over time, renewable energy sources, like biofuels, wind-power and solar energy, will make larger contributions – some, such as biofuels, are now in sight of that 1% threshold. But the world cannot suddenly switch to green fuels and renewables. Not if we want to maintain growth and maintain standards of living.
Monday, 15th August 2011 19.52
"We humans, one species of animal amongst millions have now become de fact guardians of the planet's climate stability -a service which used to be provided free (given a few ups and downs) by nature. Without realizing it, we have appointed ourselves janitors, our weaty ape hands resting heavily on the climate thermostat. A more awesome responsibility can scarcely be imagined". Quote Mark Lynas "Six degrees, Our future on a hotter planet", Harper Perennial, 2008. Is there an answer? I am afraid we have once more "business as usual". The illusion "maintain growth and maintain standards of living" is unsustainable. Please refer to "" to see the Earth's System Boundaries which we have already transgressed.