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Shell exec says offshore Alaska exploration a different kettle of fish

by Dermot Cole: Jun 16, 2012

Peter Voser, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, tells the Canadian publication MacLean’s that the company’s Alaska exploration plans  are centered on safety.

Here is the relevant exchange from Maclean’s with the Swiss-born oilman:

Q: After BP’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, public concern about offshore activity also spiked. Your company is planning to drill this summer in Alaskan waters, and Canada is contemplating Arctic drilling. What do you say to critics who contend it’s just too dangerous in such a fragile environment?

A: First, the comparison. The Gulf of Mexico is deep water and in many parts high pressure; Alaska is shallow water and low pressure. It’s a different risk profile. I think responsible operators like us have learned [from the Gulf of Mexico blowout] to further improve prevention and containment. On the prevention part, I think we have gone further than anywhere else in the world in Alaska with our safety systems, like double-blowout preventers and various other safety and security systems built in. And let’s be very clear what exploration means–drilling wells, and we’re looking at 10 in two years. These wells will be capped afterwards, and we’ll take the information we’ve gained to prepare development plans for the longer term.

Q: But opponents of developing Arctic offshore reserves say a spill in icebound waters would be impossible to contain and clean up.

A: We have tested and put a lot of money into scientific analysis on how to deal with oil spills below ice. I think today we are of the opinion that we can deal with it. That’s not necessary in the exploration phase, because we will only drill in ice-free periods. It’s a challenging environment, a challenging process. But as an industry, and also as a company, we’ve spent significant money developing technical solutions to that. These solutions over the years will improve.

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