The Last Oil Company Has Begun To Pull Out of Alaskan Arctic Region

Drilling in Chukchi Sea is almost at an end

Alaskan Sea Ice

Alaskan Sea Ice

All but one arctic drilling lease in the Chukchi Sea are to be abandoned by oil companies.NASA / Kathryn Hansen

The last oil and gas company remaining in the Alaskan Arctic region of the Chukchi Sea has abandoned 55 of its drilling leases, and has announced that it will abandon the remaining 38 by next year.

Repsol, a Spanish oil company, was one of the largest lease holders in the area. The company spent $15 million in 2008 for half a million acres.

This move follows the withdrawal of all other oil and gas companies in the region, apart from one lease held by Royal Dutch Shell. ConocoPhillips, ENI, Iona Energy and Shell have all left the region.

After a boom in the 80s and 90s, and a subsequent boom between 2003-2008, companies have discontinued exploration and drilling due to a slew of problems. Particularly, the price of staying in the region was astronomical because of long hours of darkness, as well as year-round pack ice and icebergs.

Seventy-one leases still remain in an adjacent Arctic region, the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, which has more coastal infrastructure access. Many of those leases are close to expiration, with no immediate plans for continued development.

The companies have also come up against a large amount of opposition from many nonprofit organizations and Democratic party leaders. Most disagree with drilling to the possible environmental impacts, especially from potential spills. In 2011, the United States Coast Guard admitted that there was no action plan if a spill were to happen in the Arctic. NOAA is still studying and testing to create a plan.