Shell suspends Arctic drilling for all of 2013

OIL giant Royal Dutch Shell last night suffered a severe setback after admitting it would abandon all attempts to drill for oil in the Arctic during 2013.

The company said it would pause exploratory activity off the Alaska coast in order to prepare equipment for another attempt at a later date. It gave no indication of when drilling might resume.

Two of the company’s drilling ships have been sent for repairs after being damaged when leaving the area this year. Exploration is only possible during a short summer season.

Shell has spent billions of dollars on its Arctic drilling programme but has yet to find any oil in the area’s seas. It has also faced a sustained campaign from environmental activists who object to drilling in one of the world’s few remaining wildernesses.

“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” said Shell’s Marvin Odum. “Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012. Shell remains committed to building an Arctic exploration program that provides confidence to stakeholders and regulators.”