Shell halts Arctic drill plans for 2013

Shell Oil(CNN) — Royal Dutch Shell says it will “pause” its closely-watched project to drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year, instead spending 2013 preparing for future exploration.

The company began work in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the remote Arctic this summer.

The project caused widespread concern among environmentalists and suffered some high-profile snags, including the grounding of a drill barge that was being towed back to the Lower 48.

“Alaska remains an area with high potential for Shell over the long term, and the company is committed to drill there again in the future,” a corporate statement issued Wednesday afternoon declared. But Shell said it would take time off this year “to prepare equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage.”