Shell Oil Address Safety Concerns For Offshore Alaska Drilling

Shell Oil president Marvin Odum says the company may begin drilling off the coast Alaska as early as this summer. That's raising questions about Shell's ability to respond to a spill in Arctic waters.

Odum spoke before a Houston audience at the annual conference of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas. He said Shell will need to have all the necessary response equipment within an hour’s reach of the offshore Alaska drilling site before it begins operations.

The Shell president said the remote location of the site, as well as the presence of ice, meant keeping such equipment nearby was the only way to ensure it could act quickly to avert or react to an accident.

Odum contrasted the situation with the 2010 Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.  Then, he said, responders were able to draw on equipment from as far off as Singapore, as well as all over the Gulf. He noted that the offshore Alaska site will be at a maximum depth of 150 feet of water and roughly a third the pressure of the Gulf of Mexico.

Odum said Shell still has a few more permits to obtain before it can begin drilling operations. But he said the last hurdles could be cleared in as few as seven months.

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...