``Big oil has sustained an unmitigated defeat,'' Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven said. ``The Save the Arctic movement has exacted a huge reputational price from Shell for its Arctic drilling program.''
Production rigs extracting oil would be subject to punishing storms, shifting ice and months of operating in the cold and dark. Over the summer, protesters in kayaks unsuccessfully tried to block Arctic-bound Shell vessels in Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
“Shell’s abandonment of drilling and cancellation of all exploratory activity in the Arctic is joyous news for our climate, communities along the Arctic Ocean, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have joined in public protests saying ‘Shell No’ to Arctic drilling,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, urged Shell not to try again. ``Polar bears, Alaska's Arctic and our climate just caught a huge break,'' Sakashita said. ``Here's hoping Shell leaves the Arctic forever.''
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates U.S. Arctic waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas contain 26 billion barrels or more of recoverable oil in total. Shell officials had called the Chukchi basin ``a potential game-changer,'' a vast untapped reservoir that could add to America's energy supply for 50 years.
Shell had planned at least one more year of exploration with up to six wells drilled.
A transition to production could have taken a decade or longer.
Shell had the strong backing of Alaska officials and business leaders who want a new source of crude oil filling the trans-Alaska pipeline, now running at less than one-quarter capacity.
Charles Ebinger, senior fellow for the Brookings Institution Energy Security and Climate Initiative, said in an interview that a successful well by Shell would have been ``a terribly big deal,'' opening an area that U.S. officials say contains 15 billion barrels of oil.
Though countries are pushing for cleaner energy sources, analysts predict that the world between 2030 and 2040 will need another 10 million barrels a day to meet growing demand, especially in developing countries, Ebinger said.
``Areas like the Arctic are one of the areas that, if we're going to be able to do this, we need to examine,'' he said.
Shell in 2012 sent drill rigs to the Chukchi and Beaufort seas but was not allowed to drill into oil-bearing rock because the containment dome had been damaged in testing.
The company's vessels suffered serious setbacks getting to and from the Arctic.
One drill vessel broke loose from its towline in the Gulf of Alaska and ran aground near Kodiak Island. Owners of the leased Noble Discoverer, which drilled in the Chukchi and is back this year, pleaded guilty to eight felony maritime safety counts and paid a $12.2 million fine.