LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell is moving oil rigs to Alaska ahead of the possible resumption of controversial drilling activities as the oil major awaits the green light from U.S. authorities.
The Anglo-Dutch oil major hopes to revive its Arctic drilling program two years after the grounding of a rig in Alaska that led to a huge uproar from environmental groups.
But even before getting the go-ahead from the U.S. interior secretary, Shell is moving the drilling rigs Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer to the area in anticipation of the short operations window in summer.
The vessel are “heading to North America ahead of a potential 2015 drilling season,” a Shell spokeswoman told Reuters.
“Any final decision to go forward with a 2015 season will depend on successful permitting, clearing any legal obstacles and our own assessment that we are prepared to explore safely and successfully.”
“This is a multi-year program, and every step we take will be contingent on meeting all the conditions necessary to proceed safely and responsibly,” the spokeswoman added.
Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in January he wanted to return to the Arctic this summer after Shell had already spent $1 billion on preparations.
Maintaining equipment and staff in the region costs Shell several hundred million dollars a year even without progressing with drilling, Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said.
Environmental organizations have fiercely opposed drilling in the area. (Reporting by Ron Bousso, editing by David Evans)