ConocoPhillips Alaska announced that it would not conduct any marine drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northwest shore in 2014. Environmental groups praised the decision and said that oil companies are still unprepared to drill in the frigid Arctic environment.
ConocoPhillips said it was the uncertainties over federal regulatory requirements that led them to their decision to postpone the offshore drilling. The company said that it is confident with its expertise to safely conduct its Arctic operations but it needed more time to make sure that regulatory stakeholders are united.
The company cited a report released by the Interior Department last week that stated industry and government should work with each other to make an Arctic specific model for petroleum exploration. The model should focus on guidelines for drilling and emergency response.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska described the decision as disappointing but she was not surprised by it. She said that companies are not expected to invest billions of dollars without the assurance that federal regulators are not going to modify the rules in the future.
Jessica Kershaw, Interior Department spokeswoman, said that the Obama administration is committed to support safe and responsible exploration of potential energy resources in the Arctic. She added that the region brings unique technical challenges as well as cultural and environmental considerations.
Environmental groups said oil companies are not ready to drill or clean up a major oil spill in icy waters, which can vary from a slush to a couple of feet thick. It is a tough place to work. This was showed by Shell, which experienced how hard it was to drill in the ice. It ran into troubles last year.
Shell performed initial work on exploratory wells in Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea but was asked to stop because it had not completed work on a spill response barge that is part of its spill response plan.