Oil drilling in the Arctic? That’s right; Shell recently got conditional approval from the Obama administration to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaskan coast. Of course, drilling for oil in arctic climates doesn’t come without unique challenges for the oil and gas sector.
The Dangers of Drilling in the Arctic
The dangers associated with drilling in arctic regions, whether on land or offshore, are the same sort of dangers associated with doing any sort of work in such places. To begin with, the extreme cold doesn’t merely do a number on your temperature sensitive materials and equipment, but it also poses threats to the well-being of your most important asset: your people. Next to the obvious danger of extreme cold, however, there is the challenge of arctic remoteness.
Perhaps the remoteness of arctic regions is a characteristic nearly as dangerous as their climate. If something should go wrong on an offshore oil rig in the Arctic Ocean, there are few if any roads that can provide access to the region. In fact, this is one of the main concerns environmentalists have in their stance against offshore drilling in the Arctic. Should a large oil spill happen in the waters of the far north, direct access for cleanup crews would be highly unfeasible.
Despite how sensible these concerns sound, Shell is confident in their ability to perform safely and efficiently in such a locale. What’s more, Shell considers the recent approval a big success for the oil and gas sector. Of course, they take it as a compliment for Shell specifically, considering that it illustrates the confidence the government has in Shells’ commitment to safe and efficient procedures.
For those still skeptical about Shell’s ability to handle such an undertaking, there is comfort to be found in increased and heightened restrictions. The Obama administration has tightened the operations of offshore oil rigs nationwide. Since the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf, safety regulations have increased in order to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again. So time will tell if we soon start pumping our tanks full of Arctic oil or not.