US data estimates that the country's Arctic seas contain 22 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 26 trillion cubic metres of natural gas.

When oil and gas giant Shell, last tried its hand at Arctic drilling, in 2012, it was forced to abandon its operations after an oil rig ran aground.

Now, however, the US government has given Shell approval to begin drilling again.

Environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defence Council believe that drilling in the Arctic is more dangerous than in the Mexican Gulf because the technology does not exist to clean up a spill under ice and in such cold waters.

The nearest coastguard station with equipment to respond to a spill is more than 1,600km away.

For its part, Shell has said "this time will be different", and that it will be subjecting itself to more rigorous safety standards.

Al Jazeera's Shihab Rattansi reports.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies