Alaska News

Imperial joint venture delays plan for oil drilling in Canadian Arctic

Imperial Oil and its offshore Arctic joint-venture partners are delaying their plans for an ambitious drilling project in the Canadian Beaufort Sea, news organizations reported on Friday.

The partners – Calgary-based Imperial, Exxon Mobil and BP – have asked Canadian officials for seven-year extensions of Beaufort Sea exploration licenses that are currently scheduled to expire in 2020, reported Reuters, the CBC, The Globe and Mail and other news organizations. The joint venture partners concluded they will not be able to complete predrilling work in time to drill a well by 2020, the news organizations reported.

The joint venture ship has been seeking to drill exploration wells at a prospect about 75 miles offshore of Canada's Northwest Territories.

The Imperial joint venture move came six months after Chevron announced a similar decision to shelve drilling plans for a project farther offshore in the Canadian Beaufort.

In separate proceedings, the Imperial partners and Chevron had previously petitioned Canada's National Energy Board to change its long-standing rule requiring offshore Arctic explorers to have capability to drill same-season relief wells to kill blowouts. The companies argued that the same-season relief-well rule was overly burdensome and unnecessary.

Chevron dropped its petition for a rule change when it announced its decision to suspend its Beaufort exploration project.

Imperial officials were not immediately available to comment late Friday. But Greenpeace, which opposes Arctic offshore drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, was pleased.


"Imperial Oil's decision to defer its Arctic oil drilling plans in the Beaufort Sea is good news for the Arctic and people all around the world. Drilling in icy waters is extremely technically challenging, and if it is permitted to happen an oil spill is all but inevitable," Farrah Khan, a Greenpeace Canada Arctic campaigner, said in a statement.

"Instead of pursuing unburnable Arctic oil, the energy industry should move away from harmful and destructive fossil fuel projects, and transition rapidly towards a green energy future based on renewables and energy efficiency," Khan said in the statement.

Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen was a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News.