Talk to folks with Royal Dutch Shell for any length of time and you walk away thinking they're holding a handful of aces. The company is on the eve of exploratory drilling off Alaska’s coast, the first such efforts in some two decades.
What are the company's prospects of striking it big? Shell normally gives itself 1-in-20 odds of discovering commercial quantities of oil when it sinks a drill bit.
But in the little-explored region of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas -- which are part of the Arctic Ocean and include the very spots where Shell pierced the seafloor in the 1980s and 1990s -- the company pegs its odds at better than 1 in 2.
What does Alaska get out of it? As it turns out, under federal law, the state won't benefit much from oil royalties, though Alaska's congressional delegation is working to change that. Still, Shell's development, which could total tens of billions of dollars, would generate tens of thousands of jobs, in part if the company embarks on building hundreds of miles of pipelines.
This three-part series looks at Shell’s plans to drill for offshore oil in Alaska’s Arctic and how that could forever change the state.