High winds battering Alaska’s northern coastline recently forced Shell to pause exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
The Transocean Polar Pioneer has been boring a well in the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles northwest of Alaska, since July 30.
But the area has seen 11-foot seas and gale-force winds expected to reach 34.5 miles per hour in late August, according to the National Weather Service. A coastal flood warning, high surf advisory and small craft advisory have been issued for the region.
“Due to high wind and sea states, we paused all critical operations,” said Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh. “The Transocean Polar Pioneer proactively stopped operations more than a day ago, based on the forecast, and remains safely anchored over the well.”
Shell has navigated around bad weather in the Arctic Ocean before. One day into its last drilling attempt, in September 2012, Shell was forced to briefly abandon its Burger prospect after a 30-mile-by-12-mile iceberg half the size of Houston encroached on the site.
Workers halted work, hurriedly disconnected from the ship’s eight anchors and retreated until the ice could pass by.