8 Reasons Why Shell Can’t be Trusted in the Arctic

Written by Franziska Grobke

Shell’s most recent ‘mishap’ a few days ago was not the first setback the oil giant has suffered in its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. In fact, it’s the eighth in a growing list of reasons why Shell should not be trusted in the Arctic.

1. Shell has no idea how much an oil spill clean-up would cost

In March 2012, in response to questions from the UK’s Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, Peter Velez, Shell’s head of emergency response in the Arctic admitted that Shell had not assessed the costs of a clean-up operation in the Arctic, leaving shareholders exposed to potentially huge financial losses.

2. Shell’s barge, the Arctic Challenger, was not deemed safe enough by the US government

In July last year the US authorities announced that a key part of Shell’s oil spill response fleet hadn’t been allowed to sail to the Arctic because it did not meet US Coast Guard safety standards. The ship, Arctic Challenger, is a 36-year-old barge used to drag safety equipment through sea ice. But US authorities are not happy with what they’ve seen on-board and didn’t feel confident the Arctic Challenger could withstand the extremely harsh Arctic environment. Originally Shell agreed that the ship would be able to withstand a 100-year storm, but company engineers are nowsaying that it is “no longer appropriate” for the barge to meet such onerous standards.

3. US Coast Guard “not confident” with Shell’s dispersants in the event of an oil spill

In an interview with Bloomberg the commandant of the US Coast Guard expressed doubts about the impact of dispersants in Alaska in the event of an oil spill, saying – “I’m not confident what it will do in the colder water up in Alaska”. Shell has included dispersant use as a major part of its oil spill response plan for the Arctic.

4. Shell’s drill ship runs aground in a ‘stiff breeze’

On 15 July Shell’s drill ship, the Noble Discoverer, ran aground in the sheltered and relatively calm Dutch Harbour, Alaska, in a 35mph wind. Both the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk are ageing, rusty vessels and not the state of the art fleet that Shell has been boasting about. The Kulluk has beenmothballed for the last 13 years whilst the Frontier Discoverer was built in 1966.

5. Shell’s drill ship catches fire

In November the engine of the drill ship, the Noble Discoverer, caught fire as it returned to Dutch Harbour, Alaska, and had to be put out by specialist fire crews.

6. Shell’s capping stack safety system ‘crushed like a beer can’ during testing

In December it was revealed that the oil spill containment system that Shell was supposed to have on-site in the Arctic was badly damaged in September testing. A Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement representative disclosed that the sub-sea capping stack was “crushed like a beer can”.

7. Shell’s Alaskan Vice-President admits: “There will be spills”

In an interview with the BBC, Pete Slaiby admits that an oil spill is what people were most concerned about. “If you ask me will there ever be spills, I imagine there will be spills,” he said.

8. Shell’s Arctic oil rig hits the rocks

On 31 December 2012, the oil rig, the Kulluk, ran aground off the coast of Alaska while being towed back to harbour in Seattle. It had hit heavy weather in the gulf of Alaska a few days earlier which caused the 400ft towing line to break and the rig to drift free. The tug managed to reconnect with the Kulluk but it “experienced multiple engine failures” 50 miles south of Kodiak Island, causing the rig to drift free once again in 35ft seas and winds of 40mph. The rig eventually ran aground on Monday after another attempt to tow it away. The Kulluk has 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of hydraulic oil on board but as yet no spills have been observed.  Teams on the ground are currently still trying to secure the rig.

This post was originally published by Greenpeace, via the Earth Island Journal.


Related Stories:

Where Will Santa Go When There’s No North Pole?

Louisiana Oil Rig Explodes, Killing at Least Two Workers

Arctic Seals Still Left Unprotected


Photo: tsuda/flickr


Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Ken H.
Ken H6 years ago

I'm with GreenPeace, i think its insane to drill in the Arctic and there dont seem to be people mature enough in the oil industry to put together the proper equipment needed to do this type of drilling.

I can remember watching the bhp Gulf of Mexico screwup,they didn't do proper maint,didn't have a backup ship in range that could cap the well,lied every chance they could about what was really going on,sprayed that crap on the oil that likely caused just as many deaths for the creatures......oh and they killed there own people on the rig because they took chances...................we DONT need that kinda garbage to happen again,this time its further from nowhere so they [shell] can get away with more stuff.........i think bad idea all the way around intill folks get more mature and start putting real thought into bad stuff that can and will happen.

Tim C.
Tim C6 years ago


Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon6 years ago

Only 8?

Pogle S.
Pogle S6 years ago

They are a corporate entity and we have learned not to trust non-persons with full voting rights! All oil companies are legalised despoilers of our beautiful planet!

Frank P.
Frank P.6 years ago

Shell is trying to cash in on fracking in the Karoo region of South Africa, which is a pristine and ancient geologically fragile eco system.It together with other profiteers either have no clue, or more likely don't give a damn, as to the eco harm such actions are prone to create, as is proven by areas in the US and elswhere, where water and soil have been contaminated. They spoil the environment and then move on leaving a wasteland behind. Also they will not release information as to which chemicals are used in the process, so it is difficult for the residents to make any informed decisions about the risks to health and safety. Governments are in their pockets and it is disgraceful to see how they run roughshod with impunity, over objections to their actions. Individual citizens need to mount a real concerted outcry to stop these predators in their tracks, before any further damage is done. Enough is enough.

Frank Serafini
Frank Serafini6 years ago

What do you expect in a publication from a radical terrorist organization with no respect for the rule of law?

Evelyn M.
Evelyn M6 years ago

Mark V, if I counted correctly your post was posted 31 times. Give it time the first time you post & it will show up., if not, come back later & check.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 6 years ago