ConocoPhillips has announced that it has brought its offshore drilling programme in the Alaskan Arctic to a halt, due to changes in American regulations.

The company’s decision comes just a month after the company announced it will go ahead with its planning for two exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea in 2014, reported AFP.

A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman was quoted by the news agency as saying that the company has faced changing standards in the permitting process for the Chukchi Sea plans.

ConocoPhillips Alaska president, Trond-Erik Johansen, in a press statement said: "While we are confident in our own expertise and ability to safely conduct offshore Arctic operations, we believe that more time is needed to ensure that all regulatory stakeholders are aligned."

The company had originally planned to drill its first Chukchi well, called the Devils Paw prospect, which has minority stakes by Statoil and OOGC, a unit of China National Offshore Oil Company, reported Reuters.

"ConocoPhillips said it will work with federal officials and other leaseholders to create a regulatory structure."

ConocoPhillips said it will work with federal officials and other leaseholders to create a regulatory structure before carrying out safe offshore oil and gas exploration in Alaska.

Offshore oil and gas developments in the US have come under strict scrutiny, following the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 people and led to one of the worst oil spills in American history.

In 2008, the ConocoPhillips was awarded 98 exploration lease tracts in the Chukchi Sea and has spent nearly $500m in the US Minerals Management Service’s lease sale, second only to Shell‘s $2.1bn.

In late February, Royal Dutch Shell also announced that it will halt its exploration drilling activity in Alaska’s Arctic seas in 2013.

In a press statement, Shell said it will suspend drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to arrange its equipment, with plans to resume activity at a later stage.

Image: Ice ridges in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska. Photo courtesy of Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, NOAA Corps (ret.).