Shell begins drilling Arctic

Oil company drills Alaska’s Arctic for first time in two decades

Shell Alaska officially began drilling in the Chukchi Sea on Sept. 9, the first drilling in the Alaskan Arctic in the last two decades.

The U.S. Interior Department granted Shell a permit that requires its drilling operation to stop significantly short of actual oil deposits until an oil-containment barge—the Arctic Challenger—is in place, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The barge is currently en route from a shipyard in Bellingham, Wash.

The year-long permit will expire on Sept. 24 unless Shell’s request for an extended season is granted, meaning it is unlikely any oil will be extracted this year. Dan Howells, spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace, has pointed to a series of “near-disasters” as Shell prepared for drilling over the summer, including an incident in which the company’s drilling rig dragged anchor off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and came within 100 feet of the shore.

“They’ve only proven one thing this summer; that oil companies are simply not equipped to deal with the unique challenges of operating in the Arctic,” Howells said.