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Shell is exploring for natural resources that will benefit Arctic nations and help to meet the world’s growing demand for energy. To do this responsibly, we undertake extensive scientific work – often in collaboration with industry, academia and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - to better understand and preserve the ecosystem that supports the region’s delicate balance of life.
Since 2006, Shell has invested more than $100 million pursuing scientific programmes in Alaska’s Arctic region. Our work complements the efforts of thousands of independent scientific studies carried out by others since the early 1970s at a cost of more than $500 million in all.
The scientific information that we generate supports our efforts, and those of government agencies, to advance exploration and development in the Arctic. Science has established an understanding of Arctic systems, how they operate and how they respond to oil and gas operations.
Shell scientists participate in regional, national and international advisory boards and committees, which allows us to share our intellectual resources.
Recent science-related achievements
- Publication of two dedicated volumes of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the ecology of the Chukchi Sea. One is by scientists fully funded by industry, the other by scientists funded by Shell in collaboration with government agencies;
- Establishment of Chukchiscience.com as one of the top websites for information on the Chukchi Sea;
- Collaboration with the North Slope Borough and Northwest Arctic Borough on developing a collaborative baseline studies programme;
- Recognition for the value of industry-funded data by agencies and the scientific community. This includes a precedent-setting data sharing agreement with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as regular collaboration and real-time sharing of ice and weather data to improve NOAA forecasting capabilities;
- Six years of operations at the Shell Ice and Weather Advisory Center in Alaska;
- Integration of a ship-based protected species observation programme, combined with weather observations, and participation in a voluntary NOAA programme that integrates traditional knowledge with Western science;
- Establishment of a detailed acoustic picture of exploration operations including seismic, vessel traffic and drilling;
- Collaboration with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission to assess the manner in which exploration activities may affect subsistence hunting and whaling efforts and any steps Shell can take to minimise such impacts;
- Completion of a series of workshops to incorporate environmental considerations early on in planning hydrocarbon development, including publication of a high-resolution habitat map for the North Slope area.
Working with local people
Kajutaq Avike, an Inuit hunter, about to enter an igloo he has built at dusk
Our science programme includes studying historical trends and considering how oil and gas activity can co-exist with a subsistence culture and Arctic communities that have thrived for centuries.
We also learn from indigenous people, whose traditional ecological knowledge can contribute essential information and provide an early warning system for potential environmental problems.
In 2010, for example, we entered into a long-term agreement with Alaska’s North Slope Borough to collaborate on further research into significant environmental challenges connected with developing energy resources in the region.
This programme aims to balance traditional ecological knowledge with science to answer the questions and concerns of local residents.
Respecting Arctic wildlife
We are carrying out integrated research that includes zoology, sediment sampling, deep-water studies and examining the food web systems that support marine mammals. This provides us with a detailed understanding of Arctic ecosystems and helps us plan our activities to limit potential impact.
Tailoring our technologies
The Arctic presents extreme conditions, including freezing temperatures and moving ice. Our research and development includes studying offshore structures and ice loads, ice management, ice and weather forecasting, pipeline protection, undersea installations, shipping and logistics. These efforts allow us to develop better technologies for safer operations and a limited environmental impact.
Building on decades of scientific research
Our plans to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Alaska are built on decades of scientific research. Thousands of independent scientific studies have been completed in the Arctic.