Just one year after the nation’s worst oil spill, Shell Oil is reaffirming its plans to drill the Arctic Ocean next year. While that’s not exactly breaking news, what is new is Shell’s announcement of an oil spill containment plan designed especially for the Arctic Ocean environment. Here’s that plan as described in the Wall Street Journal:
Shell said it has a three-tier, Arctic oil-spill response system consisting of an on-site oil-spill response fleet, near-shore barges and oil-spill response vessels, and onshore oil-spill response teams staged across the North Slope of Alaska that in the event of a blowout or spill could be ready to respond within one hour.
Can’t wait to see details of that plan, especially in light of the dismal oil spill response last year when the BP well blew out and for six months spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That was in warm water with hundreds of vessels brought in to try containing and scooping up the spilled oil. Most of the oil eluded capture and either ended up onshore or disappeared into the depths, proving lethal to many species of marine life.
Shell’s oil-spill response fleet would be much smaller than that in the Gulf during the summer drilling months and wouldn’t be available during the long, stormy winter. Any spillage in the winter would be almost impossible to counteract. Based upon what we saw with the Gulf spill and what we know about spills in Arctic waters, the only containment plan that has a chance of working is the one already in place: a thick layer of Arctic sea floor without drill holes.