WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- While Royal Dutch Shell said it aims to protect its drilling rights in the Arctic waters offshore Alaska, it said drilling was off the table for the foreseeable future.
Royal Dutch Shell in October said it was considering its options when the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement denied its request to suspend leases in Arctic Alaskan waters that expire between 2017 and 2020. Leases expire at the end of their terms unless operators are engaged in drilling or related activity.
In September, the company said it found evidence of oil and natural gas in its Burger exploration well located in the shallow waters off the coast of Alaska, but not enough to warrant further activity. Shell had said it needed more time to move forward with frontier development, but the federal BSEE ruled the company failed to consider the difficulties.
Shell, in its filing, said it was moving to protect its assets and leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, arguing suspensions of the clock on the leases is warranted.
"The appeal does not change our recent decision to stop exploration offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future," a spokesman said in response to email questions.
Activists worked to thwart the deployment of drilling rigs bound for the Arctic waters offshore Alaska earlier this year. Pointing to a track record of early equipment failures from Shell, critics said the program offered more problems than promise.
Susan Marry, deputy vice president for advocacy group Oceana, described Shell's ambitions in the Arctic waters offshore Alaska as a "pipe dream."
The Dutch supermajor committed about $7 billion to the Alaska program.