Shell to forego Arctic exploratory drilling until 2013

The floating oil-drilling platform Kulluk, normally stationed off Alaska's North coast, moves to Seattle for repairs. The floating oil-drilling platform Kulluk, normally stationed off Alaska's North coast, moves to Seattle for repairs. Elaine Thompson/AP

Shell will not conduct exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer, the company said late on Sunday, after a containment dome was damaged during a final test of the system. 

"In order to lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013, we will forgo drilling into hydrocarbon zones this year," Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said in an email. "Instead, we will begin as many wells, known as ‘top holes,’ as time remaining in this season allows."

While the company has received permits to begin preliminary work in the Arctic, it has been struggling to get its oil spill response barge, called Arctic Challenger, certified in order to get final drilling permits for the controversial project. The company successfully completed a series of tests for the containment system in the last several days, but during a final test, the containment dome abroad the Arctic Challenger was damaged, op de Weegh said.

The time it would take to repair that damage and the accommodations the company is making for local whaling operations means that Shell had to revise and scale back its 2012-2013 exploration program, she said.  

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