Greenpeace warns of damaging oil rush after company finds signs of hydrocarbons near Greenland

By Jan M. Olsen, AP
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Greenpeace warns of oil rush risk to Greenland

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Scottish energy company’s discovery of hydrocarbons off Greenland’s coast could spark an oil rush that “would threaten the fragile environment,” Greenpeace warned Tuesday.

Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart said Cairn Energy PLC should have followed the example of oil companies that suspended deep-water drilling after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Edinburgh-based Cairn on Tuesday reported “early indications of a working hydrocarbon system” off western Greenland, a semiautonomous Danish territory.

Cairn Chief Executive Bill Gammell added the finding confirmed the company’s “belief in the exploration potential,” but didn’t say how much oil or gas had been discovered.

Greenpeace’s ship Esperanza arrived to the Arctic area near Cairn’s oil rig on Monday as part of its campaign to “confront dangerous deepwater oil drilling.”

“We’re here to highlight and document the reckless push toward an Arctic oil run,” Stewart told The Associated Press by telephone.

The organization was informed by police onboard a Danish navy vessel not to violate a 1,650-feet (500-meter) security perimeter around the Stena Don rig, police said.

Three decades after an exploration effort failed to find oil, drilling in the deep ocean off Greenland’s west coast resumed in 2001. Exploration so far has been unsuccessful.

Cairn started drilling 108 miles (175 kilometers) west of the Disko Island on July 1 in water depths of 990-1,650 feet (300-500 meters). It said its wells have planned target depths of up to 13,860 feet (4,200 meter.)

Last week, they were granted permission to drill two more deep-water exploration wells off Greenland.

Although seismic data indicate that the area could have gas and oil reserves, Cairn’s finding doesn’t necessarily mean that oil has been found, said Erling Halfdan Stenby, a chemistry professor at Denmark’s Technical University.

“It could be that there was only gas, it could be that there was oil too,” Stenby said. “On top of that, one cannot even be sure that the finding is profitable.”

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