Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has been given final permission by the US government to start drilling for oil in the seas around Alaska.
Shell was granted a licence to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic in May, despite warnings by protestors it could lead to an environmental disaster.
The licence for up to six exploratory wells was granted by the US government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) which said it had taken a ‘thoughtful approach to potential exploration’.
The final licence was contingent on Shell having its safety equipment in order. That permission was granted on Monday by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the NRC reports.
According to American geologists, the Arctic could yield 25 billion barrels of oil and 3,400 billion cubic metres of gas.
Campaign groups say the decision has been rushed through and point out that BOEM’s own environmental impact statement warns ‘there is a 75% chance of one or more large spills’ happening, the Guardian reported in May.
Shell had to pull out of the Arctic in the middle of 2012 after a key piece of safety equipment that would be used to tackle oil spills broke down.