U.S. President Obama just made some dramatic changes to the offshore oil and gas landscape. Let’s take a look beneath some of the recent headlines to figure out just what Obama’s actions will mean for the offshore oil landscape.
Storm Clouds in the Arctic
First, the bad news for the oil industry. On January 27, the Obama administration moved to block oil and gas development in large swathes of the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska. The Department of Interior issues five-year leasing plans, and under the next iteration (2017-2022), Obama withdrew areas within 25-miles of the Alaskan coastline in the Chukchi Sea. He also scrapped the Hanna Shoal, a biologically rich section of the Sea, as well as several sections that are used for subsistence by native groups.
The withdrawal of sensitive areas for leasing will not affect current leaseholders. While ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and Statoil (NYSE: STO) still hold some offshore Arctic acreage, they do not have plans to drill in the near future. Only Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) is actively pursuing Arctic oil. Shell reported disappointing fourth quarter results as oil prices crashed. In order to shore up its balance sheet, the Anglo-Dutch company vowed to leave its dividend unchanged, slash spending by an eye-popping $15 billion over the next three years, and avoid pricey investments. On January 29, Shell announced its sale of the Sean field in the North Sea, and is looking for further divestitures.