A look at Dome Petroleum’s ill-fated drilling program in the Beaufort Sea
Dome built Tarsuit Island by dredging the bottom of the sea and installing concrete blocks that had been shipped all the way from Vancouver.
Through the 1970s and early 1980s, 176 offshore wells were drilled in the Canadian Arctic, though there wasn’t enough oil discovered to justify the enormous cost of full development.
In 1982, shortly before Dome Petroleum Ltd. abandoned its Arctic offshore program, its director of environmental affairs Harry Palmer snapped this photo of the company’s 8,500-square-meter Tarsuit Island rig site in the Beaufort Sea. Similar to its Arctic offshore competitor Imperial Oil Ltd., Dome built Tarsuit Island by dredging the bottom of the sea and installing concrete blocks that had been shipped all the way from Vancouver. The company built a similar offshore rig on a dredged island at McKinley Bay, Northwest Territories, though neither Tarsuit nor McKinley Bay proved commercially viable.
Like Petro-Canada, Panarctic Oils Ltd. and Shell Canada Ltd., Dome eventually gave up on drilling in the Beaufort Sea. Palmer says he didn’t think offshore drilling in the Arctic would be commercially viable in his lifetime, but in 2012 the Canadian federal government auctioned off 905,000 hectares of Arctic offshore exploration rights to energy companies. The following year, Imperial Oil, ExxonMobil Corp. and BP PLC submitted applications to drill for oil off the coast near Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Three decades earlier, Dome was using Tuktoyaktuk as its jumping-off point to reach Tarsuit Island.